Sunday 18 August 2019

Native River in full flow to claim the Welsh Grand National

Native River ridden by jockey Richard Johnson clears the last and wins The Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap at Chepstow Racecourse
Native River ridden by jockey Richard Johnson clears the last and wins The Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap at Chepstow Racecourse

Graham Clark

Hennessy Gold Cup hero Native River produced a fantastic weight-carrying performance to land the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Following his tremendous victory at Newbury last month, the Colin Tizzard-trained six-year-old was the 11-4 favourite for the marathon contest, despite being burdened with 11st 12lb.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson rode a positive race from the off, initially settling Native River in behind the pacesetting Emperor's Choice before taking over the lead with a full circuit still to race.

The market leader jumped well in the main to keep up the momentum and produced a huge leap four fences from the finish to propel him clear of the field.

Irish raider Raz De Maree came home strongly, but Native River had enough in the tank to hold him at bay by a length and three-quarters, completing a fantastic 24 hours for the Tizzard team following Thistlecrack's scintillating success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Houblon Des Obeaux and Beg To Differ finished third and fourth respectively.

Johnson said: "It's unbelievable. I wasn't happy for the first mile and I think he definitely wants better ground, but he's such a trier. After four or five fences he started to get into his rhythm.

"I was worried beforehand as I didn't want to make all, but I had to get him going. It was like he was being over-cautious so I had to get him going like in the Hennessy. Once I did that he had a lovely time.

"The Gold Cup is always about top-class chasers that stay really well. He's got that in abundance - to win a Welsh National off top weight is a hell of a performance.

"Hopefully he's still going the right way and I'm sure slightly better ground will help him as well."

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