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Native River sees off old rival's Bite.

JONJO O'Neill junior won the biggest race of his burgeoning career to date as Native River landed the Betfair Denman Chase for the third time at Newbury.

Winner of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2018 in a terrific battle from Might Bite, the two met again - but they have had contrasting fortunes since.

While Native River (2-5 favourite) has maintained a consistent profile, Might Bite has regressed quickly and yet again Nicky Henderson's 2017 King George winner was found wanting at the business end.

Riding in the absence of injured champion jockey Richard Johnson, O'Neill kept things simple and set out to make all.

While he met a couple of fences wrong on ground quicker than ideal, Colin Tizzard's 10-year-old never looked in danger at any stage.

If anything he was just getting going after the last, and while Secret Investor kept him honest, Native River won by two and three-quarter lengths.

Tizzard said:"They left him alone today and no-one decided to come with us. It was a lovely prep race for the Gold Cup. Jonjo felt as if he hadn't really got serious with him. He gave him a couple of little flicks and he was away and that is him all over. He is hardly blowing there.

"It is quite interesting, when they jumped the cross fence twice the young man thought they were going long and the old man said, 'not yet'. That cross fence can undo a lot of horses, but he is neat and handy.

"When he came here two years ago it was his first run (of the season) and we wanted to replicate that a bit. You always wonder if you have done enough on the gallops and we haven't taken him away at all.

"We just try and trust ourselves a bit."

The trainer added of O'Neill junior: "He is a good young rider and mentally he is a strong young man. He has been put under the microscope a fair bit this week - everyone is hanging on his every word, and he handles it very well.

"We like him, as he has grown up with the ups and downs of racing."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2020
Words:362
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