Trainer Colin Tizzard says Native River (9/2 – Cheltenham Gold Cup Outright) is in good shape ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and the camp are confident of a strong Gold Cup defence.
Native River, under the guidance of jockey Richard Johnson, produced a stunning performance at Prestbury Park last year to win the Gold Cup by four-and-a-half lengths from the Nicky Henderson-trained Might Bite.
The nine-year-old chestnut gelding has since gone on to finish second at Haydock Park before ending up third in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Preparations all seem to be going smoothly for the defending champion and the prospect of more rain hitting the venue will be a further boost, with Native River winning on soft ground 12 months ago.
Speaking about his hopes of landing the Gold Cup for the second straight year – the first time this will have been achieved since Best Mate in 2003 – Tizzard says everyone is feeling extremely positive.
“He’s been fine in the last week and we’re just going through the motions now, doing our bog-standard stuff,” he said. “We’ve another week to go, but he’s in lovely form, looks lovely and everything has gone to plan. We’re very happy with where we are with him.”
Tizzard, who broke his Gold Cup duck as a trainer last year, also runs Elegant Escape and Thistlecrack in the showpiece race and the duo are priced at 20/1 and 12/1 respectively.
Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux, who both have winning form on soft ground, are battling for the pre-race favourite tag with the pair priced at 7/2 and 4/1 respectively.
Odds subject to change.