Part-owner Garth Broom has confirmed Native River’s season will be geared around a fourth tilt at the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Winner of the blue riband event in 2018 after a memorable tussle with Might Bite, the Colin Tizzard-trained chestnut had finished third behind Sizing John 12 months earlier and again ran with credit to finish fourth behind Al Boum Photo when defending his crown in March.
Plans are fluid for the first half of the current campaign, with races like the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow – which he won three years ago – under consideration for the nine-year-old.
But there is no doubt about where connections want to end up.
Broom said: “He looks very well, but we are not going to rush him this season. I don’t know where he will start at his stage.
“I don’t think there is much point going for the King George as he doesn’t really like the course at Kempton and we are toying with the Welsh National. Until the horse is spot-on and the ground comes right, we aren’t making any firm plans.
“I know he would have to give a lot of weight away in the Welsh National, but the track suits him. Ireland (Savills Chase at Leopardstown) is an option and we are keeping an open mind.
“What we want him for are the Denman Chase at Newbury and the Gold Cup after Christmas. I’m not saying he would win the Gold Cup, but I’d hope he would run well in it as he has been placed in it three times.
“He never lets us down and always runs his race.”