richard johnson and native river

Native River Horse

Native River is one of the most popular National Hunt horses in training, having won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for jockey Richard Johnson and trainer Colin Tizzard in March 2018. He also won the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National in 2016 and has collected more than £940,000 in prize money so far for connections.

Owned by Brocade Racing, Native River was sired by Indian River and out of unraced Be My Native mare Native Mo, but didn’t make the ideal racecourse debut, unseating his rider in a four-year-old point-to-point maiden at Dromahane in Ireland.

Racing Career to date

Native River made a fairly ordinary start to his novice hurdling campaign in late 2014, finishing third on his Rules debut at Newton Abbot before landing the spoils at Stratford and then again at Newcastle on Fighting Fifth Hurdle day - on both occasions ridden by Brendan Powell.

He would find Graded races at Newbury and Cheltenham too hot at this stage of his career, but did manage to land a Listed novice hurdle at Exeter, seeing off Paul Nicholls’ Emerging Talent who went off the 4/5 favourite.

Colin Tizzard wasted no time sending the scopey five-year-old over fences and he made his chase debut at Chepstow in October 2015, in what turned out to be an extremely hot race for the time of year.

It was won by Cocktails At Dawn for Nicky Henderson, who was rated as high as 150, while Grand Sefton winner As De Mee was second, with Native River third and Blaklion - later the winner of the 2016 RSA Chase at Cheltenham - back in fourth for the Nigel Twiston-Davies team.

Native River would win a minor novice chase at Exeter on his following start, before backing that up with a gritty Grade 2 success at Newbury, seeing off the attentions of dual Cheltenham Festival winner Un Temps Pour Tout.

Tizzard then stepped Native River up in class on Boxing Day of 2015, when he would come third in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase behind Tea For Two, looking outpaced throughout the race.

It was clear the Tizzard team thought they had a dour stayer on their hands, and as a result, aimed Native River towards the four-mile National Hunt Chase for amateur riders at the Cheltenham Festival. Despite making a terrible jumping error at the 13th fence, he stayed on to finish an excellent second behind Minella Rocco, who would later go on to finish one place ahead of Native River in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Native River would eventually get a deserved victory at Grade 1 level the following month, claiming the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree, beating old rivals Blaklion and Un Temps Pour Tout in the process under Richard Johnson. It would be the start of a great relationship between the horse and champion jockey.

Colin Tizzard began the 2016/17 campaign by aiming Native River towards the big staying handicaps and he landed a huge gamble in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. He went off the 7/2 favourite and looked the winner for the entirety of the race under Johnson, until he idled badly in the closed stages but clung on to win by half a length from Carole’s Destrier.

Having already been entered in the Welsh Grand National, Native River was unpenalised for his victory at Newbury, going off a warm 11/4 favourite to take first prize at Chepstow as a result. He did just that, jumping with accuracy and clearing away from his rivals off top weight to win by a comfortable two lengths. A Grade 2 success back at Newbury followed in the Denman Chase before he was sent to the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time.

On ground that was on the quick side for the Festival, Native River disputed the lead throughout before being outpaced in the final four furlongs, eventually finishing a staying-on third behind Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John and Minella Rocco from the Jonjo O’Neill team.

Injury stopped Native River from competing in the Betfair Chase or the King George VI Chase in 2017, and instead he made his seasonal reappearance in February 2018 in the Denman Chase, comfortably beating Cloudy Dream and Saphir Du Rheu. It would be the perfect prep run for a second tilt at Prestbury Park glory.

Native River Gold Cup 2018

Priced up as the 5/1 third favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Native River was fancied to run very well after finishing third in the race in 2017 despite running on quick ground that was far from ideal. This time, on soft ground, the Tizzard team were quietly confident.

In what was one of the great Cheltenham Gold Cup renewals on March 16, 2018, as Might Bite and Native River slugged it out for three miles ahead of their rivals who were toiling in behind. Coming up to the second last, Nico de Boinville and Might Bite looked to have the beating of Native River, travelling powerfully on his outside.

But the eight-year-old would not give in and as Might Bite began to tire up the Cheltenham hill, Native River found more under pressure and eventually powered away to land the Gold Cup by four-and-a-half lengths. In doing so, he gave Tizzard a first victory in the Gold Cup, with winning connections netting £369,000 in the process.

Native River post-Gold Cup and future targets

Native River ran three times in the 2018/19 season, finishing second in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, third in the King George Chase at Kempton and fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He will be no doubt aimed again towards the Betfair Chase at Haydock, with the main target being the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2020. Tizzard has also said that he would be open to Native River running in the Aintree Grand National on Saturday April 4, 2020.

At The Winners Enclosure, we will have tips and best bets on all Grade 1 National Hunt races in the UK and Ireland in the days leading up to the race from our panel of betting tipsters and experts.

Training and riding Native River

Native River is trained by Colin Tizzard at his Venn Farm Stables in Sherborne, Dorset. Brendan Powell rode Native River for the majority of his novice hurdle and chase campaigns before Richard Johnson took over at Aintree in his Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase victory. Johnson has taken the ride ever since, bar the 2017 Denman Chase when Aidan Coleman guided him to success.