Native River is still likely to head to Kempton rather than Ireland at Christmas despite the £1 million bonus being out of reach this season.
Winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, Colin Tizzard’s eight-year-old ran his usual consistent race when second to Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase on Saturday.
With Tizzard also set to be represented in the King George VI Chase by Thistlecrack, who stayed on for third on Saturday, the Leopardstown Christmas Chase could have been an alternative option – but Native River’s owner Garth Broom is happy to stay closer to home.
“I was very pleased with him on Saturday. I don’t think any of the horses jumped those big fences as fluently as they can. He flew some of them, but put down just occasionally,” said Broom.
“Where he can sometimes gain a half length with his jumping, he wasn’t doing that – because he seemed to be jumping up in the air rather than flying them – but I was delighted. Bristol De Mai seems almost unbeatable there – and at least we got it down to four lengths!
“I don’t think the course plays to his strengths, so he acquitted himself well. We’d have been delighted to have won the race, but he put everything in and never lets us down.
“I think we’ll still probably go to Kempton rather than take him to Ireland. Obviously the options are more open now, without the £1 million bonus to think of.
“He’s come out of the race really well, everything is fine, but I would think it’s more likely we’ll head to Kempton – more by choice than feel like we had to go.
“Obviously Kempton might not play to his strengths as much as Cheltenham, but if he goes there and puts up a similar performance as we build up to the Gold Cup we’ll be happy.
“He ran all right in the Feltham (Kauto Star) there as a novice. But he wasn’t the horse he is now, and it was partly human error that day because we held him up – we ride him a lot differently now.
“I think you’ve still got to be a fair stayer to win the King George. Because they tend to get racing a long way out, it brings stamina into play – it also tends to suit those who race prominently.”
Broom added: “He hasn’t been out of the first three over fences. In fact he’s won 11 of his 22 and been out of the frame only three times in his life – and one of those was a fall. He’s the horse of a lifetime.
“We were delighted with how he ran, and if he runs a similar race – while it’s nice to win these races – if you get placed you are doing well. It’s all building up towards March. He’d probably go to Newbury before the Gold Cup, but it’s one race at a time.”