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Native River sparks more Gold Cup dreams for Broom

Native River’s owner Garth Broom is dreaming of Cheltenham glory once more after his veteran chaser teed up another crack at the Magners Gold Cup with his doughty weekend display at Sandown.

The 11-year-old won the rearranged Cotswold Chase on Saturday, beating genuine top-notchers Bristol De Mai and Santini in the process.

Native River won the blue riband in 2018, so Broom has experienced the feeling of Gold Cup glory already- and has been touched by the reaction to his pride and joy’s latest victory.

“It was better than we could hope for, how he did it,” he said.

“Staying chasers get such a following, and I’ve been told there was quite a reaction on social media. It’s fantastic.

“I thought he was the forgotten horse going into the race – the only problem was I only have a bet whenever I’m on course, so I didn’t back him!”

Like everyone else, Broom was watching from home with his wife, Anne, and he had far more confidence about his chance than many – who cited the form of the Colin Tizzard yard and the fact it was on a right-handed track as big negatives for Native River.

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“I knew he was in good form, because Colin had sent a video of him on the gallops where he looked brilliant, said Broom.

“The only doubt was the stable form, so it was a relief they had a winner earlier in the week.

Bristol De Mai could not catch Native River who pulled away in the straight
Bristol De Mai could not catch Native River, who pulled away in the straight (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Some had said he’s not at his best going right-handed, but the only place he doesn’t really like is Kempton – and he was still third in a King George there.

“The only time he’s been out of the first three over fences, he was fourth in a Gold Cup beaten less than 10 lengths – and at that time, there was a question mark over the stable form too.

“When you look back at his CV, it’s incredible. He won the Welsh National and the Hennessy four years ago – and he’s still at the top of his game.”

With fellow front runner Yala Enki and Bryony Frost taking him on for the first circuit, Native River also showed he does not always have to make the running.

“Richard (Johnson) said he didn’t want to take Bryony on early, but turning down the back straight the second time he didn’t ask him. He (Native River) was saying ‘come on, let’s get going’ – he did it all himself,” said Broom.

“After the first circuit and I saw him in that rhythm, he takes a bit of beating.”

With such a wet winter and Cheltenham losing their last two meetings to waterlogging, good ground could be a long shot, which will also aid Native River’s chances.

“I wouldn’t have thought the going would be good at Cheltenham, looking at the weather,” added Broom.

“He can actually handle good, but we just have to mind his legs now. He did a suspensory after Newbury last year – and I really fancied him for the Gold Cup then, too.

“Looking at the Gold Cup, you obviously have Al Boum Photo to beat, but I think Venetia Williams’ horse (Royale Pagaille) is the dark one. Any young horse who keeps winning and is clearly improving is always going to be a threat – if he runs of course.

“What I will say is that looking at Monkfish and Envoi Allen, next year’s Gold Cup looks very tough already!

“We’ve not got many miles on the clock, though. He might be 11, but we’ve always minded him because when they are running over three miles and more in heavy ground, they have hard races.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be there. We’ve had our first (Covid) jabs, but the second one won’t come in time. I suffer from bad asthma and decided not to go last year.

“It’s heart-breaking not being there. It was on Saturday, but it’s a sign of the times I’m afraid.

“Tom Malone buys most of our horses – and I keep saying to him if he finds me another half as good as Native River, I’ll be very happy.”

Native River ready for Cotswold challenge

Owner Garth Broom is optimistic the fire still burns brightly in Native River as the 2018 Gold Cup winner returns to the scene of his finest hour for the Cotswold Chase.

Now an 11-year-old, Broom’s pride and joy has won more than £1million in prize-money – with a Welsh National and a Hennessy Gold Cup also on his record.

He has won Newbury’s Denman Chase three times, too. But he picked up an injury in that race last year – a setback which ruled him out of the Gold Cup – and along with trainer Colin Tizzard, his owner has agreed a change in tack this time as he heads to Cheltenham on Saturday instead.

It will be Native River’s second run of the season, after he finished a close third to Lake View Lad in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last month.

“We know he’ll go in the heavy ground at least, so that will be in his favour,” said Broom.

“I thought he ran really well at Aintree first time out. If they hadn’t taken all the fences out (for low sun) I think he’d probably have won, but that’s just my opinion.

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“He had Frodon well behind him, and he came out and won the King George. Considering it was almost a Flat race, I thought he acquitted himself really well.

“He might be 11, but he’s never been over-raced. If they are running in the top class and in testing conditions you can’t run them too often. There aren’t that many races for him these days, given his rating and the distance he needs.

Native River came out on top in a great battle with Might Bite for the 2018 Gold Cup
Native River came out on top in a great battle with Might Bite for the 2018 Gold Cup (Nigel French/PA)

“We did actually put him in the Welsh National to have a look. But he’d have been giving lots of weight to young improvers, like the winner – and that’s not fair on him.

“As we weren’t ready for the Betfair, we went for the Many Clouds. He doesn’t like Kempton, so the King George wasn’t on the radar. Last year we waited for the Denman – but it jarred him up, and we missed the Gold Cup.”

This weekend’s race has attracted another multiple Grade One winner in Bristol De Mai and last year’s Gold Cup second Santini – although his participation is not assured – as well as Aintree winner Lake View Lad.

“Even if Santini doesn’t run there’s still Bristol De Mai, who will like the ground, but he seems to be very well – from what we can see anyway!” said Broom.

“We keep having videos sent to us, because we can’t go to see him at the moment of course. He seems full of himself on the gallops. He’s 11 now, so we can’t expect miracles – but I hope he runs well, and then it’s on to the Gold Cup.”

Every year a debate about the Grand National is brought up between connections, but this year more than ever Broom and his wife Anne seem against it.

“We’re not really National people – I wouldn’t advise people putting any money ante-post on him,” he said.

“I don’t even know if we’ll enter him. We find there’s too many horses, it’s a lottery – and usually it’s not his ground in April.

“If our aim was to win the Grand National then fair enough, but ours isn’t. If you were to think with your head then he’s made for it – but we tend to think with our hearts!

“He doesn’t owe us anything, he’s been absolutely brilliant. If the ground was right the (Aintree) Bowl might be more on the agenda, but it depends how he runs on Saturday and in the Gold Cup. If he has a hard race there then we wouldn’t ask him to go to Aintree.”

Arguably his biggest barrier to success could be the form of the Tizzard yard, who are without a winner this month – but Broom is partly to blame for that.

“There have been signs of improvement from the yard – he’s had a few seconds and third,” said Broom.

“He (Tizzard) was actually second to one of our horses at Wincanton, Brinkley – which didn’t go down well!”