Native River, the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, is Aintree-bound for his much-anticipated return to action with the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase over 3m 1f on the Mildmay course at the Grand National venue his first target. Trained by Colin Tizzard, the Indian River gelding who turns 10 in 2020 is also under consideration for the world’s most famous steeplechase.
“We have talked about going for the National a lot at home,” assistant handler Joe Tizzard told the Racing Post. “The plan is to go for the Many Clouds on December 7. That’s his first target [and] we’ll see how he is after that.”
Tizzard junior also said that owners Brocade Racing, who are fronted by Garth and Anne Broom, are warming to the idea of Native River bidding for Aintree Grand National glory in 2020. The Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival which he’s contested in each of the last three seasons is another springtime option.
Native River has enjoyed a superb steeplechasing career. Prior to the start of the 2019-20 National Hunt season, he has won eight of his 16 starts over fences. Those victories include some of the valuable staying chases in Britain with major handicap successes in the 2016 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and Welsh Grand National around Chepstow really putting him on the map.
Prior to landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018, he won back-to-back renewals of the Grade 2 Denman Chase. Connections aimed Native River at the Stayers Chase Triple Crown last season famously achieved by Kauto Star in 2006-07. He put up a series of fine efforts to first chase home Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai, then come a fine third at tight track Kempton behind Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase and finish fourth when defending the Gold Cup.
Case for a Grand National run
A winless campaign last term means Native River is far from done. Throughout his career, he has relished testing conditions – namely, soft ground – where emphasis is placed upon stamina. The Grand National course is the ultimate trial of equine endurance over two circuits and 30 spruce-covered fences. Its extended 4m 2f trip is also one, provided he took to the unique obstacles, that Native River should get.
For evidence of that, see his Welsh National win in 2016 or when a gallant runner-up to Minella Rocco earlier that same year over a gruelling four miles in the Grade 2 National Hunt Chase under amateur rider Michael Legg. Native River also recorded success at the highest level as a novice on the Mildmay course in-between those efforts.
As a proven performer in staying handicaps, that makes the 25/1 odds available as of November 19 about Native River in Betway’s ante post horse racing betting on the 2020 Grand National well worth considering. This is naturally an ultra-competitive race and there will be well-regarded horses lining up on Merseyside against him if Native River takes his chance come April 4th.
Potential Grand National 2020 Runners
Other prominent potential 2020 Grand National runners in the market include dual winner Tiger Roll and Burrows Saint, who won the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse last Easter. Emerald Isle raider Anibale Fly, meanwhile, has twice completed the course in fourth and fifth carrying heavy weights.
The British handicapper has his say on all Grand National entries in early February when a special assessment – usually done to attract runners to Aintree – of horses on both side of the Irish Sea is published.
Given Tiger Roll became the first horse since equine jumps icon Red Rum to win the race in consecutive years last season, he is bound to be the topweight. That has led to plenty of media mind games from Michael O’Leary, who is the leading man of powerful Irish owners Gigginstown House Stud, about their horse.
A minor setback means trainer Gordon Elliott won’t have Tiger Roll out until after Christmas, but the lure of sporting and horse racing history may prove too strong for connections if he’s sound. It’s highly likely Native River will get weight from the defending Aintree showpiece champion.
That is a big plus. While younger horses like Burrows Saint don’t have a good Grand National record, the trend is moving away from those of an age with Native River and older. Each of the last five winners has been eight or nine, while regular jockey Richard Johnson has never won this race.