Native River bags Welsh National to complete terrific two days for Colin Tizzard
Tuesday 27 December 2016
By Racinguk.com staff
Hennessy Gold Cup hero Native River produced a fantastic weight-carrying performance to land the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Following his tremendous victory at Newbury last month, the Colin Tizzard-trained six-year-old was the 11-4 favourite for the marathon contest, despite being burdened with 11st 12lb.
Champion jockey Richard Johnson rode a positive race from the off, initially settling Native River in behind the pacesetting Emperor's Choice before taking over the lead with a full circuit still to race.
The market leader jumped well in the main to keep up the momentum and produced a huge leap four fences from the finish to propel him clear of the field.
Irish raider Raz De Maree came home strongly, but Native River had enough in the tank to hold him at bay by a length and three-quarters, completing a fantastic 24 hours for the Tizzard team following Thistlecrack's scintillating success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Houblon Des Obeaux and Beg To Differ finished third and fourth respectively.
Johnson said: "It's unbelievable. I wasn't happy for the first mile and I think he definitely wants better ground, but he's such a trier. After four or five fences he started to get into his rhythm.
"I was worried beforehand as I didn't want to make all, but I had to get him going. It was like he was being over-cautious so I had to get him going like in the Hennessy. Once I did that he had a lovely time.
"The Gold Cup is always about top-class chasers that stay really well. He's got that in abundance - to win a Welsh National off top weight is a hell of a performance.
"Hopefully he's still going the right way and I'm sure slightly better ground will help him as well."
Native River earned a quote of 12-1 with Skybet, Ladbrokes and William Hill for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Tizzard said: "He's a beautiful young horse. He's only six, after all, and it took me a long time to get them (owners) to run him. I had to think of the reasons why we should run.
"It hadn't rained and there were no horses carrying 10 stone in it. That's when the top weights are vulnerable, but there was only just over a stone in the handicap and there was nowhere else to go.
"He won't do any more than he's got to. As soon as he got out in the country, he got better and better in the race.
"He's a lovely stayer. Any other season, without the likes of Thistlecrack and Cue Card, he'd be anyone's champion.
"He's a stayer so there's nowhere else he can go apart from the Gold Cup.
"There's all to play for. We were actually thinking before we came here today that Native River could go the World Hurdle route.
"You've got to keep an open mind, but I think we'll stay chasing now."
Raz De Maree's rider Ger Fox said of Gavin Cromwell's charge: "I thought I was going to get him.
"I winged the last and I knew Dicky Johnson's horse was carrying a lot of weight and I thought he might tie up, but still delighted to finish second. The winner was a special horse .
"It was a great performance by my horse and by the team at home to keep a horse of his age to enjoy these type of tough chasers."