End of an era as Native River heads for well-deserved retirement

Native River, one of the most popular horses in training, has been retired after being pulled up in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner won 11 of his 24 chase starts, amassing over £1million in prize-money for his owners, Garth and Anne Broom, and giving the Colin Tizzard yard some of their greatest days to date.

Tizzard said: “He is an amazing horse. The first time we ran him, he finished third in a bumper and he won the next time (at Stratford). The next year he went novice chasing and he just progressed.

“We thought we had a good horse on our hands when we went to Newcastle and he won the French Furze Novices’ Hurdle on his third run for us.

“He was never the fastest, but then we had a real field day with him when he won the Hennessy, the Denman and the Welsh National – we didn’t hold him back.

Colin Tizzard with Native River during his Gold Cup homecoming
Colin Tizzard with Native River during his Gold Cup homecoming ( Mark Kerton/PA)

“He has always been a thorough stayer and we just thought today, he didn’t like the ground or didn’t really want to be doing it. And we thought that the time before, so it was the right time to do it.

“He wouldn’t hurt anybody. He wouldn’t bite you. A child could walk through his back legs and he wouldn’t have it in his mind to do anything silly.

“We had an era when we had Cue Card, Thistlecrack and Native River, and Native River and Cue Card won over £1.3million each. If ever Joe (Tizzard) is going to be able to find one like that, it will be amazing.

“It is the end of the big three, really.”

He went on: “He is a lovely boy and retiring him is the right and proper thing to do.

“When you talk about the big races, the biggest is the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he won it – so finding the next one is not going to be easy. There are a lot of people trying to find those big, strong staying chasers. He has been fantastic to us.”

Crowds flocked to see Native River after the Gold Cup
Crowds flocked to see Native River after the Gold Cup (Mark Kerton/PA)

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “He’s been an absolute legend for us all. His wins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Hennessy and the Coral Welsh Grand National were all massive, memorable days for Garth and Anne and the whole team.

“He’s a lovely character, and has been a special horse to train. He will now enjoy a happy and well-deserved retirement.”

Winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 2016, he went on to land the Coral Welsh National the same season, before finishing a fine third to Sizing John in the 2017 Gold Cup.

But it was the following year that he tasted glory at Cheltenham, powering up the hill to beat Might Bite by four and a half lengths.

Garth Broome paid tribute to “a horse of a lifetime”.

He said: “The writing was on the wall a long way out, but we thought we’d give him a couple of runs this season with his ground, which he has had both times.

“But his jumping had not been how it had normally been.

“He has been such a grand servant and we just decided enough is enough. It is about the first time in about 25 races that he has been out of the first four, I think.

“He is like a big teddy bear in the stable, but he has a rod of steel down his back when he is a racehorse.

“He is a horse of a lifetime and we have been very lucky to have him.”

He went on: “He will be retired to Tom Malone, who originally bought him. We agreed that several years ago, even before he won the Gold Cup. He lives just a few miles down the road from us (near Taunton).

“There have been several people who have offered to have him in retirement – I think we could have given him to 20 different people! So many people have taken a liking to him.

“Obviously the Gold Cup was the big highlight, but he won the Hennessy, the Denman Chase and the Welsh National in the same season as a six-year-old and then just got touched off for second place in the Gold Cup. That was a golden season.

“He has given us so many good days, but you can’t top the Gold Cup.

“I suppose Remastered is the biggest hope we have of replacing him, but if any horse does half as well as Native River, we will be doing well.

“He ran with his heart on his sleeve – that’s why people took to him. He always tries. He has never run a bad race – even today when everything wasn’t right for him, but he tried up to a point. We said if he was struggling to pull him up.

“We have some lovely memories with him.”

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