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Cheltenham Festival clues: Native River romped the Denman Chase but won’t win the Gold Cup

On all known evidence, there’s no reason why Native River should win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the current odds of 13/2 are ridiculously short.

Here’s why everyone should be ignoring him for the Cheltenham showpiece…

The Cheltenham Gold Cup market got a much needed shake-up on Saturday when the likeable Native River returned to action in dominant fashion with a 12-length victory over Cloudy Dream in the Denman Chase.

Ruth Jefferson’s eight year-old kept pace with Colin Tizzard’s beast for the majority of the race, but Native River’s staying power shone on the run-in. In the aftermath, his 10/1 quotes disappeared into 13/2.

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That my friends, is what you call a smelly price. It stinks. It should not be touched.

Judging by the market reaction, many have seemingly decided to conclude that Native River is an improved horse from last year when he finished a brave but ultimately well-beaten third behind Sizing John.

However, the easy-on-the-eye victory on Saturday told us one thing: he’s fit, well and likely to be performing at a similar level to last season.

With this year’s renewal looking a deeper contest from a form perspective with a classy ante-post favourite in Might Bite, plus the horse he has lengths to make up in the form of Sizing John, it is difficult to make a strong case for Native River at the current prices.

Another fear with Native River when it comes to his Gold Cup challenge isn the fact he needs to race prominent to make his challenge.

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Front runners rarely win the Cheltenham showpiece due to strongly run nature of all Festival races – those that race prominently are usually are sitting duck for those in behind.

It takes a special horse to do it from the front at Cheltenham – Native River is undoubtedly a good horse but is he great one capable of doing it the hard way from the front? I have my doubts.

One horse that could well fall into the great category who races prominently is ante-post favourite Might Bite, whose position at the top of the betting remains a strong one. His participation in the race also doesn’t help Native River’s cause.

There is an argument to be made that Tizzard’s chaser under a master rider in Richard Johnson could somewhat nick a Gold Cup from the front in an understrength year.

This year doesn’t look like being one of those, especially with Might Bite likely to undertake the same forceful ride tactics.

Although the ante-post favourite doesn’t need to make it like Native River, he without question needs to make use of his giant stride and pace of his jumping ability.

He has the ability to put pressure on other horses that want to go a stride slower than his racing pace. Just look at his run in the RSA Chase last season – before he decided to wander on the run-in.

He put real pressure on fellow front-runners Acapella Bourgeois and Alpha Des Obeaux from an early stage and one-by-one they started to toil as the race developed. In the end both horses were well beaten due to their inability to cope with Might Bite.

It’s true Native River is by far a stronger stayer than the two aforementioned horses but it’s clear to see from my view that he won’t be able to deal with Might Bite’s acceleration when the taps get turned on during the second circuit.

At 13/2 Native River is easily swerved in the win markets.

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