Native River is the latest National Hunt star to throw his hat into the ring for what is shaping up to be a stellar renewal of the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Conditions at Kempton will need to be testing for the 2018 Gold Cup winner to take his chance but a soggy December forecast means that Colin Tizzard is now seriously considering forking out the £10,000 supplementary fee.
Tizzard said: “We've not totally ruled out supplementing him because if we have a really wet month and the field go flat out it would be set up for a stayer to take them at the end.
“It would have to be really soft at Kempton but if it rains everyday between now and Boxing Day he could run. It's an idea that popped up in the last two days. He'll probably run at some point over Christmas regardless and we're not ruling anything out.”
Native River confirmed his well-being with a wide-margin victory in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last Saturday, although his task was made considerably easier by the early fall of main rival Might Bite.
However, connections have been buoyed by the reaction of jockey Richard Johnson, who spoke in glowing terms about the nine-year-old afterwards.
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The trainer added: “He showed he still had pace at Aintree and we couldn't have dreamt for any more. Richard Johnson rang me yesterday and wanted to have a chat – it's the first time he's ever rung me up. He said Native River felt as good as he did two years ago.
“He's come out of the race well and we just have to make sure he's in the right races right up until the Cheltenham Festival.”
Coral have reacted by giving Native River an opening 14/1 quote for the festive showpiece and spokesman Dave Stevens said: “Native River was so impressive on his return to action at Aintree that connections are considering adding him to the King George field, although it would probably need very testing ground at Kempton to see him at his best against a top-class field, and he also has the option of Chepstow the day after.”
Native River is also being seriously considered for the Coral Welsh National, for which he is a top-price 9/1 to repeat his 2016 success in that race.
If he instead heads to Kempton, it is likely that one of his biggest rivals will be stablemate Lostintranslation, one of last year’s star novices who took the step into open company in his stride by winning the Grade 1 Betfair Chase last month.
Lostintranslation currently heads the King George market at 9/4 alongside Cyrname, the highest-rated National Hunt horse in training and the horse that brought Altior’s unbeaten record to a shuddering halt in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot last month.