Native River ready to defend title but isn’t favourite

Colin Tizzard believes Native River is well-equipped to become the first horse since Best Mate to retain the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

But the defending champion is not favourite, and is behind both Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux in the betting, with the latter gaining major traction in recent days.

No horse has successfully defended the coveted title since the former Henrietta Knight-trained star recorded the last of his three consecutive victories in 2004.

Recent history may be against Native River, who has been defeated in the Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase this season, but Tizzard senses a return to Cheltenham will help him get back on track.

Tizzard said: “He is a Gold Cup winner that got beat by a very good horse around Haydock first time.

“When he went out in the Feltham (Novice Chase at Kempton) in 2015 he was always looking to go out left-handed, and he’s done exactly the same in the King George.

“Five out, you thought he was going to pull up, but he stayed on really strongly – and on the line, you would say if had another two furlongs he would be right up there with them.

“The Gold Cup is three miles two – the King George is three miles. The King George is run 56 seconds faster than the Gold Cup – and that brings Native River, with his stamina, right back into it.”

Paul Nicholls – who runs Clan Des Obeaux – is more than happy with how he has prepared.

“Nothing could have gone better at Ascot, he beat a dual Grade 1 winner (Terrefort) and murdered him. He is experienced and mature now and we are really excited about running him in the Gold Cup,” said Nicholls.

Coral has trimmed Clan Des Obeaux to 4/1 (from 9/2) for next month’s Gold Cup, following support for the King George VI Chase winner.

Presenting Percy remains 11/4 favourite for the Cheltenham race, but Coral believe last season’s RSA Chase winner could well be usurped at the head of the betting by Nicholls’s charge.

“While Clan Des Obeaux has proved his class and his wellbeing with his last two victories, Presenting Percy will head to Cheltenham without a run over fences since last year’s Festival success, and those factors could well see the former replace the Irish raider at the head of the betting for the week’s Blue Riband contest,” reckoned Coral’s David Stevens.

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