Tried and tested routine the order of the day for Cue Card and Native River

Thu 23 Feb 2017

Colin Tizzard will endeavour to make it business as usual with Native River and Cue Card as both horses enter the final stretch before the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Following the announcement of Thistlecrack's season-ending injury on Tuesday, the Dorset handler can be forgiven for being restless in the build-up to the big race on March 17.

But with Native River and Cue Card having now completed their main preparations, Tizzard is cautiously optimistic the top two in the Gold Cup market will get to Cheltenham in one piece.

He said: "We are nearly through. We've not got to do any big racecourse gallops. What we will do now will be at home. We will probably jump them next week.

"We are on auto pilot. What we do every day and week of the year is what we will do now."

Tizzard feels Native River, the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National hero, is a worthy ante-post favourite.

The Dorset handler said: "We've had Native River since a four-year-old and he is a lovely young pretender now.

"He has got all the qualities. He has got that long, raking stride, longer than any other horse that we have got here.

"We used to pigeon hole him a bit that he wanted good ground, but we have put that to sleep this winter, he can handle any ground.

"He jumps and he stays and we saw something the other week (in the Denman Chase) we didn't know he had - those gears. He sprinted away and wasn't looking like stopping.

"He is in the form of his life and will take a lot of beating. He has got it all."

Cue Card's most unfortunate moment on a racecourse came in the Gold Cup last year when he fell three out in pursuit of a £1million bonus.

His form this season has again been strong and he provided one of the most popular victories of the winter in the Ascot Chase last Saturday.

Tizzard added: "It was amazing the reception he got winning at Ascot.I think the press have made him into the people's favourite horse. It was a fantastic reception.

"He is 11 years old but he should have won that race, although not necessarily like he did it.He jumped like he was right back to his very best. He was fluid and came away when he wanted and sauntered home.

"It was his own making that he fell last year and there is everything to play for.He is faster than your average Gold Cup horse. That was the whole idea of going to Ascot which Paddy (Brennan) came up with.

"He said two miles and five (furlongs) round there will be fast and it will get his jumping slick and it has worked out a treat."

Tizzard is a short price to train the winner of the Gold Cup, even in spite of Thistlecrack's absence, but he is not taking a thing for granted.

He said: "The Gold Cup is a tremendous pressure for me as a trainer, the owners, the horses and the jockeys.

"Just because they are first- and second-favourite it is not a gimme this Gold Cup.They will have to be right on their game."

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