Racing

Native River makes long journey from Dromahane point-to-point to Gold Cup

Trainer Colin Tizzard keeps an eye on Native River at his stables in Dorset ahead of next week's tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Eamonn Murphy

When Native River goes for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 17, it will be three years to the day from his debut in a Dromahane point-to-point.

Denis Ahern was the man to give Native River his early education, but things did not go to plan at Dromahane as he unseated his rider.

Ahern, though, is still pretty confident about the Colin Tizzard-trained seven-year-old's hopes in chasing's blue riband.

He said: "He has to have a serious chance. He has all the right qualities.

"He stays, but he's not slow, he's a great jumper and he looks the real deal for it.

"I'll be there to see him run and there were two other fellas into the horse with me when I had him, John Neville and Paul Rigney, so there's great anticipation with us now.

"His natural talent was there from the start, but it's kind of freakish how well he's turned out.

"He's actually a lucky horse to be alive. There was a picture in the paper the day after (his Dromahane debut) and he literally had legs everywhere.

"He never fell, but how he stayed standing, I'll never know."

Ahern continued: "He was a very easy horse to train. I never took him to a schooling hurdle, a schooling bumper, or anything.

"Tom Malone (bloodstock agent) came over and bought him out of the yard within a fortnight of Dromahane.

"We'd actually sold him a couple of horses before, including Next Sensation, so our dealings have worked out. Tom knows his stuff and I've known him for quite a while.

"We had a horse that won a bumper and a point-to-point called Tanterari. He won plenty of races after we sold him across to Martin Pipe. Tom won twice on him in the colours of the late David Johnson."

Ahern has extra reason now to yearn for further big-race success for the Welsh Grand National and Hennessy Gold Cup victor.

The County Cork-based handler added: "I actually bought a half-sister to Native River at the sales in November.

"She's a yearling now, by Milan, a nice type, and if he wins the Gold Cup I'll breed off her."

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