Christmas 2016 just keeps on giving to Tizzard
Colin Tizzard's fantastic Christmas got even better as Native River produced a superb weight-carrying performance to win the Coral Welsh Grand National.
Thistlecrack was an awesome sight when comfortably seeing off his stable companion Cue Card in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen's Day, confirming his place as hot favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Native River had already emerged as a realistic contender for the blue riband after winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last month, and those claims were enhanced as he lugged 11st 12lb to an authoritative success in the marathon Chepstow event.
The 11-4 favourite was given a positive ride by Richard Johnson, jumped soundly in the main and had enough in the tank to see off fast-finishing Irish raider Raz De Maree by a length and three-quarters.
Tizzard said: "He's a beautiful young horse. He's only six, after all, and it took me a long time to get them (owners) to run him. I had to think of the reasons why we should run.
"It hadn't rained and there were no horses carrying 10 stone in it. That's when the top weights are vulnerable, but there was only just over a stone in the handicap and there was nowhere else to go."
Native River was cut to a best-priced 12-1 for the Gold Cup, the same as Cue Card, with Thistlecrack the 5-4 favourite. William Hill are offering 14-1 about Tizzard training the one-two-three, although it may be advisable to hold any bets after the trainer revealed he was considering switching Cue Card to the Ryanair Chase.
"He's (Native River) a stayer so there's nowhere else he can go apart from the Gold Cup. We've got options with Cue Card. He could drop back for the Ryanair," said Tizzard.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil is at the very top of the juvenile division after extending his unbeaten record over jumps to four with a wide-margin victory in the coral.co.uk Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle.
The 4-5 favourite was a little untidy with his jumping in the home straight, but still came home with 13 lengths in hand and is now the general 5-1 favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Noel Fehily rode the first four winners at Kempton, taking out the two big prizes on offer in the process. The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior (1-9 favourite) hardened as ante-post favourite for the Arkle Trophy with another brilliant display in the 32Red.com Wayward Lad Novices' Chase.
Fehily completed his four-timer aboard Henry de Bromhead's Irish raider Special Tiara (8-11 favourite), who took the 32Red Desert Orchid Chase for a second time. Sire De Grugy was an early casualty.
"It's been a fantastic day. I've ridden some lovely horses and I'm very lucky," said the jockey.