Native River powers clear of his rivals in the Hennessy Gold Cup
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Andrew Dietz 3:24PM 26 NOV 2016
Report: Newbury, Saturday
Hennessy Gold Cup Chase (Grade 3) 3m1f214y, 4yo+
FAVOURITE Native River clung on from the fast-finishing Carole’s Destrier to deliver champion jockey Richard Johnson a first Hennessy success and maintain the big-race dominance of trainer Colin Tizzard.
Seven days on from Cue Card’s sensational performance in the Betfair Chase and just over two hours after star novice Thistlecrack gained a foot-perfect third chase victory, Tizzard unearthed a third potential Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate in the form of the progressive Brocade Racing-owed chaser.
While Cue Card and Thistlecrack possess cruising speeds to die for, Native River is cut from a different cloth with his bottomless stamina capable of breaking the toughest of rivals.
Nudged along by Johnson from a long way out, Native River kept finding more and despite a wayward jump three out, the pair quickly regrouped to take over the lead over the second-last.
The challengers were lined up in behind at the final fence but the 7-2 favourite rolled up his sleeves and powered clear on the run-in. Although gallant runner-up Carole’s Destrier closed the gap all the way to the line, Native River had just done enough.
‘I can’t believe it’
Tizzard, the envy of his colleagues and priced at 6-4 to train the Gold Cup winner by Betfair, said: “I have got all the toys at the moment, I can’t believe it. The horses have come to me, I haven’t found them, and I don’t know how many I will have in the Gold Cup.”
The trainer, who surpassed the million mark in total prize-money for the first time last season, is on course to do the same before Christmas this time. After victory in the £200,000 showpiece, he was cut into 4-1 (from 6-1) for the trainers’ championship by William Hill, having been a 25-1 chance at the start of the campaign.
Like Cue Card, Native River was dispatched to Wetherby for his seasonal comeback and his second-placed finish in the bet365 Hurdle was regarded as the perfect pipe-opener for the Hennessy.
But the gritty chestnut is a chaser through and through as he confirmed on this day last year with victory in bet365 Novices’ Chase – won by Thistlecrack this time – and subsequent displays when second in the National Hunt Chase and an impressive winner of the Grade 1 Betfred Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Regarding future targets, Tizzard added: “Native River will not be going back over hurdles now. He is in the Coral Welsh National but might be a bit better than that.
“If he is in the same sort of form in March he could join the team in the Gold Cup. If you win a Hennessy you are usually right up there with the best of them.
“We dreamt after he won the novice chase here this day last year that me would be back for the Hennessy.
“The race went perfectly for him and I was surprised how well he was travelling. I didn’t like the idea of bullying him all the time and Richard has ridden him brilliantly.”
Champion bags a Hennessy
Johnson had twice finished second in the Hennessy but finally ended a wait stretching back 18 years. He said: “It’s always nice to win one you haven’t before. He’s a fantastic horse and Colin and his team are in amazing form.
“I’d knew he’d pick up again, although turning in I was a bit worried I wasn’t going that well.
“But he’s one of those – the more you ask, the more he gives.”
Neil Mulholland had mixed emotions after Carole’s Destrier’s barnstorming late run. He said: “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword as he has run such a great race but we are sick to get so close.
“The plan was to come here and then go for the Coral Welsh National and he has shown he jumps, stays and gallops and wants further.
“He was a little slow at the last but has come home strongly and I am very happy with him. He will have an entry in the Aintree Grand National if I can convince his owner.”
Ten-year-old Double Ross ran a mighty race in third as he attempted to become the first winner aged in double digits since Diamond Edge in 1981, while Hadrian’s Approach stayed on for fourth.