Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard insists that stable star Native River’s focus this year is the Cheltenham Gold Cup and believes he has a “live chance”.
The eight-year-old has not been seen since last year’s race when he finished third to Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John.
He was expected to finish the season in style 12 months ago after winning four races in five meetings but Sizing John proved too good at Prestbury Park.
Sizing John, Minella Rocco and Djakadam have already returned this season but connections of Native River have delayed his reappearance.
He is set to return at Newbury next week to defend his Denman Chase crown and Tizzard is excited to see the chestnut gelding back on the course.
“He has had his (racecourse) gallop and he is on course for Newbury,” Tizzard said. “He looks a million dollars and we are just trying to get everything right for him.
“He was only beaten two and three-quarter lengths in the Gold Cup last year and has got a live chance again. If he puts up a monster display at Newbury or something like he did in the Gold Cup last year, he will soon be remembered.
“He was not far behind in the Gold Cup last season and he had a hard season. It was all about the Hennessy (Ladbrokes Trophy) last year and this year it is about the Gold Cup.
“Fingers crossed we get him there in the best shape.” Might Bite remains the 4.50 favourite to win the Gold Cup, with Sizing John at 8.00 and Native River priced at 11.00.