Trainer Colin Tizzard has confirmed that last year's Gold Cup winner Native River will sidestep the rearranged Denman Chase at Ascot on Saturday and instead head straight to the Festival next month to aim for a successful defence of his crown without any preparation.
The nine-year-old was due to run at Newbury last week in what is his usual springboard to the upcoming festival showpiece in four weeks time, but the outbreak of equine flu caused all racing to be cancelled for six days.
The event - along with the Betfair Hurdle has been rescheduled to run in Berkshire this weekend at the royal venue in amongst a nine-race card, but the track layout is what appears to be the commanding factor in his withdrawal.
(Credit: Sky Sports Racing) Tizzard said: "We won't run Native River at Ascot on Saturday. He looked awkward at Kempton going right-handed and we have now taken him there twice.
"He has won over fences going right-handed, but that was a four-runner race at Exeter and that is a big, galloping track.
"He is fit and ready to go. It is only a month away from the Gold Cup and we are getting to close to it. He definitely jumps better left-handed and we want him in the best shape for the Gold Cup.
Last year's Gold Cup winning trainer - who also landed a double on Day Four of the Festival will Kilbricken Storm's victory in the Albert Bartlett, alerted punters that they still have possibility of getting Native River fit for this year's contest.
"Instead, we will give him a racecourse gallop at Wincanton or Larkhill. We have got plenty of places to go and we will do that away day next week, I imagine," he said.
"We might do it twice, but not necessarily have a flat-out gallop. Last season he only had one run before the Gold Cup and this season he has had two, so we are on par," he finished.
This means we will definitely have a new winner of the Denman Chase this season, after Native River's victories in the last two seasons helped him manage a win and a runners-up spot in the Festival feature.
Clan Des Obeaux - another heading for the Gold Cup, has no issues running right-handed, and will gear up for a first crack at the Gold Cup, after his extraordinary win at Kempton on Boxing Day handed trainer Paul Nicholls a record tenth win in the King George.