Saturday was such a great day. To get a treble any day is special but when it’s a big Saturday meeting it’s even more special.
He is just an unbelievable horse. To do what he has done over the past four or five years is incredible. He just turns up, gets on with it and does his job. You can’t help but enjoy riding him. The Gold Cup is going to be very competitive, and he will have to improve again, but he definitely goes there with a decent chance.
Yala Enki really wanted to make it a test on Saturday but Native River doesn’t have to make the running. It actually suited us quite well because he had a bit of company and didn’t have to do the donkey work on very testing ground. He jumped and travelled well through the race and down the back straight on the second circuit, I thought we could start to be a bit more aggressive. The more I asked of him the more he gave, and that is so typical of the horse.
It was great to see him back in such good form. Like I’ve said before, we were very happy with him at Aintree where the dolled off fences certainly didn’t help. The ground was testing on Saturday, so he will need some time to recover, but we’ve got just over five weeks to the Festival now. He seemed great after the race, Joe [Tizzard] was there and it was hard for us all not to smile after that performance.
I spoke with the owners on the way home and even though it was obviously disappointing for them not to be there, they still got a massive thrill watching the race from home. Fingers crossed he stays in one piece over the next few weeks and if we get some soft ground on the day it would definitely help him.
We were thrilled with him in the Scilly Isles. They went a good strong gallop and because he’d only had one run over fences, we knew he was in at the deep end. We couldn’t have gone much quicker early on and the race came back to us a little bit. He’s a horse that I’m sure will stay three miles and I think that was in our favour at the end of the race.
He showed a huge amount of potential last year and it was nice to see that again on Saturday. He’s entered in the Arkle, Marsh and Festival Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham and it wouldn’t surprise me if we end up going three miles. He didn’t run his race at Cheltenham last year but he’s a year older and stronger now. He’s also had a quiet campaign which will hopefully be a bonus going into the Festival.
The ground was tough at Sandown so he’ll need to recover from that but we’ve got time and hopefully he can go and run well at the Festival.
We didn’t know why he ran so disappointingly on his first two starts but it was nice to see him return to form. He won the race last year so he clearly likes Sandown and off the back of that performance you’d have to think one of those long distance staying races should suit him later in the spring. The Welsh National was the plan this season but his first two efforts meant we couldn’t go there. He should have plenty of options in the future.
Irish Champion Hurdle
I saw the end of Honeysuckle’s race and you couldn’t help but be impressed. She’s a Festival winner already and is one of the mares that always seems to do enough. I don’t think we know how good she is yet but she’s the favourite for the Champion Hurdle now and you couldn’t argue with that after her performance on Saturday.