Colin Tizzard has confirmed Jonjo O’Neill Jr will partner Native River in next month’s Betfair Denman Chase.
The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero claimed his first victory since his memorable triumph in the blue riband when landing last month’s Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in first-time blinkers.
After Native River won the Denman Chase in both 2017 and 2018, the Grade Two contest at Newbury on February 8 looks the ideal stepping-stone on the road back to Cheltenham in March – but he will require a new rider, with his regular partner Richard Johnson sidelined by injury.
Tizzard told Sky Sports Racing: “Jonjo is going to ride him. He might be a conditional, but he’s a polished young man.
“We spoke about it with Garth and Ann (Broom, owners) yesterday. That’s what I wanted to do (book O’Neill) – I think he’ll suit Native River down to the ground.
“If Richard doesn’t come back by Cheltenham, we’ve got a ready-made jockey who has had a go on him.
“Jonjo rides for us and schools for us, and we want him on our side.”
Native River is a best-priced 16-1 for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup with William Hill.