‘I’m not afraid of Might Bite’ – Joe Tizzard
The Tizzard team insist they are unafraid of taking on Might Bite again as they prepare Native River for a Cheltenham Gold Cup rematch in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
The pair endured a gruelling battle in the Festival’s showpiece event with a tough performance from Native River enough to see off the Nicky Henderson-trained star in a thrilling race.
Now they are set to line-up for only their second clash, with all roads leading back to Cheltenham.
Native River has not raced since that brave victory and the sponsors make Might Bite an even-money chance to reverse the Gold Cup placings, with the Tizzard-trained eight-year-old priced at 11-4.
Joe Tizzard, son and assistant trainer to Colin, said: “It looks a cracking race to start the season off and I hope they all turn up. I’m not afraid of Might Bite, that’s for sure.
“It was a hell of a duel in the Gold Cup and it was a cracking race to watch. It was even better when Might Bite boosted the form at Aintree. These two taking each other on is great for racing. We have massive respect for him but we aren’t hiding away.
“Might Bite is favourite because they think the track will suit him better and that Native River is ground dependent but I don’t think that’s true.”
Colin Tizzard has enjoyed three successes in the Betfair Chase, all with his stable’s now-retired hero Cue Card, who was also second in the Grade 1 event a year ago.
Joe Tizzard, who rode Cue Card to the first of his hat-trick of wins in the race in 2013, said: “Native River schooled over fences on Sunday and jumped beautifully.
“He has been given this brand as a slogger but he really is as tough as they come and has a lot of class too. He is just what you need for these races.
“This has always been the plan for him, he has been back since July and hasn’t missed a day. He is a very sound horse, has had a great preparation and we can’t wait to run him.”
Native River made only one other appearance before his Cheltenham Festival success earlier this year, winning the Denman Chase at Newbury, but connections are plotting a bid for the Jockey Club’s £1 million pound bonus if a horse can win Saturday’s feature, the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and then the Gold Cup.
He added: “It’s a million pound bonus and that prize shows how difficult it will be but it is an incentive.
“You’d say Kempton doesn’t suit Native River but he was third in the Kauto Star in 2015, it’s a track you need to stay on. They race hard from a long way out, which would suit him because he has a very high cruising speed and he can keep it going for a long time. Hopefully that will play into his hands.
“We will be giving it a go, but will have to see what happens after Saturday.”
The Tizzards will also be represented by Thistlecrack, while last year’s winner Bristol De Mai, Clan Des Obeaux, Politologue, Shattered Love, Don Poli and Outlander are also among the nine possible runners for the Grade 1 contest.