This weekend’s Denman Chase at Newbury will be light on numbers but packed full of quality with Colin Tizzard’s Native River heading the market.
The Dorset trainer has seen the winners dry up lately but the odds suggest that Tizzard’s big guns are set to blaze once again.
Native River is currently an even-money shot to land the Grade 2 contest at Newbury, having already taken the spoils in the Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National this season.
Speaking to the Racing Post, Tizzard said: “Newbury was always going to be his target as he needs a race before Cheltenham and, while the two-mile-seven trip might be on the sharp side, I’m sure Richard Johnson will keep plenty of pace on.”
The champion jockey has enjoyed the leg up on each of Native River’s previous four outings with only an easily forgivable defeat in the West Yorkshire Hurdle blotting their copybook.
However, as mentioned, Tizzard has struggled for form of late and his jolly is set to face some stiff competition in the form of Bristol De Mai.
The popular saddler is 0 from 13 this month and has seen just two winners from his last 24 runners.
And Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge provides a very real challenge on the horizon.
Bristol De Mai jumped beautifully when putting his rivals to the sword in hacking up by 22 lengths on his last outing.
That win in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock has put the six-year-old in the Gold Cup frame. And, like those of Native River, connections will also be hoping their runner passes the acid test on the road to Cheltenham.
However, is the Denman Chase a straight-up match between the two leading principals?
Former World Hurdle winner More of That showed some of the old spark remains when finishing a creditable sixth in the Lexus Chase last time out.
Meanwhile, Paul Nicholls’ Le Mercurey saw off Bristol De Mai at Ayr last year and the champion trainer is confident his entrant can perform well in a small field and at a flat track.
Course and distance winner O Maonlai is the remaining candidate. But while he won at Newbury in November, this looks a step too far.
Ladbrokes Latest Betting:
Native River – Evens
Bristol De Mai – 11/8
More of That – 13/2
Le Mercurey – 10/1
O Maonlai – 50/1
Click here for the latest Denman Chase odds.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing