Native River will once again use the Denman Chase at Newbury as his final prep race for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Colin Tizzard-trained eight-year-old has won the Newbury Grade Two in each of the last two seasons – and last year followed up with a memorable victory over Might Bite at Prestbury Park in March.
He has had to make do with minor honours on his two starts this season – finishing second in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and third in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day – but Garth Broom – who owns the gelding with his wife, Anne – believes his charge remains a leading contender for the blue riband.
He said: “All being well Native River will come back for the Denman Chase, as long as it is not frosted off and all is well with the horse and the ground. That is very much Plan A.
“We were very pleased with him at Kempton as he stayed on really strongly. It was a good run given it was going right-handed and the track was against him.
“We decided to give him another go at Kempton as he was an older horse than when he last ran there, but I would have thought we won’t go back for the King George next year.
“The Denman has worked out well the last two years. It is usually a small field but more importantly, the timing is right, as it is a month before Cheltenham.
“The other thing is it gives the horse a nice prep run to open up his lungs before the Gold Cup.”