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Ulster bred Gold Cup hopeful is horse of a lifetime, says trainer

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Going Native: Jonjo O’Neill Junior riding Dromore bred Native River to victory at Newbury on Saturday

Going Native: Jonjo O’Neill Junior riding Dromore bred Native River to victory at Newbury on Saturday

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Going Native: Jonjo O’Neill Junior riding Dromore bred Native River to victory at Newbury on Saturday

Top trainer Colin Tizzard has described the locally bred Native River as "a horse of a lifetime."

Native River was bred at Dromore, Co Down by Fred and Maureen Mackay and is bidding to regain his crown having won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018 while winning a total of 13 races to earn in excess of £1m in prize money.

The top class chaser has been aimed at the Gold Cup repeat by his trainer and has won both his starts this season including the Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday when partnered for the first time by Jonjo O'Neill Junior with regular partner and Gold Cup winning jockey Richard Johnson currently side-lined due to injury.

The champion rider is hoping to be back in the saddle for the Cheltenham Festival feature with his regular mount having filled fourth in the Blue Riband last season.

Native River made all the running in the Denman Chase giving a display of jumping to score easily and is presently best priced at 12/1 to again win the Gold Cup in March.

Tizzard said: "They left him alone and it was a lovely prep for the Gold Cup. Jonjo felt he never had to get serious with him, he gave him a couple of flicks and he was away. That's him all over, he was hardly blowing."

O'Neill jnr added: "He's a great horse, he was deadly."

Native River has also been entered for the Randox Aintree Grand National and was cut to 16/1 following Saturday's impressive display. The allocated weights for this year's renewal of the world's greatest steeplechase will be revealed at an event in Liverpool tomorrow evening.

√There are big plans afoot for Felix this month, and he can stay on course with victory in the Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton today.

Marco Botti's four-year-old, a course-and-distance winner on Boxing Day, holds a high-profile entry in the Winter Derby at Lingfield.

He has put such lofty targets on the agenda by winning all three starts since being gelded last summer, including both for his current trainer.

Felix has risen more than a stone in the ratings since September, but still appears to be improving rapidly on the basis of his smart 10-furlong win over Singing Sheriff at Lingfield last month.

He is back just half a furlong here, having found this trip and track very much to his liking over Christmas - and there is no reason to expect his latest 5lb rise will halt progress.

Earlier at Dunstall Park, Yellow Tiger can put the cat among the pigeons in the Betway Casino Handicap.

David Loughnane's new inmate is significantly up in trip on his stable debut.

He has nonetheless hinted more than once that a marathon distance could be his bag - and new connections are wasting no time before finding out.

Sound Mixer is still waiting for her maiden success, after five career starts over the past four months. But there is no doubt she is getting much closer, despite being a narrowly beaten favourite the last twice, and is fancied in the Ladbrokes "Play 1-2-Free" On Football Handicap at Wolverhampton.

All yesterday's race meetings and today's at Catterick fell victim to Storm Ciara.

SELECTIONS:

PLUMPTON: 2.15 Fraser Island, 2.45 Colorado Doc, 3.15 Hawthorn Cottage, 3.45 Wenceslaus, 4.15 Age Of Wisdom, 4.45 Lady Chartreuse.

WOLVERHAMPTON: 4.35 Distant Goddess, 5.05 Sound Mixer, 5.40 Double Kodiac, 6.10 Yellow Tiger, 6.40 Windsorlot, 7.10 Beau Geste, 7.40 FELIX (NAP), 8.10 Jorvik Prince.

DOUBLE: Felix and Sound Mixer.

Belfast Telegraph