Native River beats Might Bite on the flat
Image supplied by The Jockey Club

Reigning Gold Cup hero Native River is to head straight to Cheltenham in defence of his crown.

Trainer Colin Tizzard had intended to run the nine year-old in the Denman Chase, a race he had won the two previous years, but has ruled that out, after the race was re-routed to Ascot.

Tizzard said: “We won’t run Native River at Ascot on Saturday. He looked awkward at Kempton going right-handed and we have now taken him there twice.

“He has won over fences going right-handed, but that was a four-runner race at Exeter and that is a big, galloping track.

“He is fit and ready to go. It is only a month away from the Gold Cup and we are getting to close to it.

“He definitely jumps better left-handed and we want him in the best shape for the Gold Cup.”

He added: “We will give him a racecourse gallop at Wincanton or Larkhill. We have got plenty of places to go and we will do that away day next week, I imagine.

“We might do it twice, but not necessarily have a flat-out gallop.

“Last season he only had one run before the Gold Cup and this season he has had two, so we are on par.”