Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05


It will be muddy marvellous if Native strikes again


Lee Mottershead

I’m hoping it absolutely buckets down. That’s not because so few people are actually going to be at Cheltenham that we shouldn’t be bothered about bad weather. The reason I’m hoping for persistent downpours – apologies, in advance, to Simon Claisse and his wellies – is Native River. Many a Cheltenham hero has found a place in my heart. On Gold Cup day in 2018, Native River secured his when emerging victorious at the end of one of the bravest performances in festival history. My report that day began with an opening paragraph that summed up what the race had meant to me. “This, laid out before us on a muddy but marvellous field, was all we love about the sport and this festival.” That’s what I said then and I still mean it now. Everywhere the front-running Native River went, Might Bite followed. On the most attritional ground it was a sustained duel of epic proportions, one that almost certainly broke the runner-up’s heart. Had he possessed a white flag he would have waved it as the indefatigable white-faced wonder carried Richard Johnson up the hill. That was three years ago. Native River is now 11 but none of his enthusiasm or courage has ebbed away. We saw that at Sandown last month. Should he get the conditions he so adores, we could see it again.



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