He may be 12 in a few days, but such is the Native River class that they will still give 10 lbs and more to the entire Coral Welsh National Camp in Chepstow.
One of the four previous race winners, Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup hero loves nothing more than a test of endurance in the mud and that’s what he’ll get once again in Wales.
In his final season, it would be a famous victory for a popular horse if he were to succeed.
Stablemate Elegant Escape, last year’s winner Secret Reprieve and Christian Williams’ Potters Corner are the other runners to have tasted glory in that marathon test earlier.
Garth Broome, the owner of Native River, doesn’t see his welterweight burden prove to be a problem.
“We can’t wait,” he said.
“He used to carry more of that weight. It’s not necessarily the weight he has, it’s more about what others carry.
“He likes Chepstow and the distance, so if the expected rain comes we will be happy. He will always run his race and he is as genuine as them.”
It was an unusual preparation for Secret Reprieve, not seen since last year’s heroism.
It has been a mixed season for coach Evan Williams, with great racing successes for the likes of Dans Le Vent, Coole Cody and Ansaam. But his team had to contend with the loss of favorite Silver Streak.
“We have some very, very smart horses and we have a lot of the lesser lights that make good races, people hang on to those big Saturday wins, they’re the ones that get you noticed,” Williams said.
“I guess work like this (Secret Reprieve) at home is good against horses that have run very, very big races in the big Saturday races.
“If it happens again, great, if it doesn’t, as long as we are whole again, then I’ll be happy.”
Paul Nicholls won the race as a trainer and jockey, but not since L’Aventure in 2005. He thinks he has a big chance this year with Highland Hunter.
“It was a pleasant surprise (when) he won at Sandown because I was using him as a prep contest for it. I thought he was going to blow two of them, but he had his second wind and he stayed good,” said Nicholls.
“He carried 11st 12lb over three and five miles there, so he’s really a strong supporter. The softer the ground, the better and he has to go there with a big chance.
“He’s gained 4lbs but he’s neither here nor there in my eyes, I don’t think 4lbs would stop him if he ran at his best.”
Nicholls also manages runner-up in 2019 Truckers Lodge.
Sandy Thomson sends Hill Sixteen off its Lambden base after just getting lost in the Beaker Chase beyond the Aintree fences.
“It was a hell of a performance at Becher Chase and it never got the credit it deserved,” said Thomson.
“It was an extraordinary performance to get him out of the bag considering where he had been and what he had done.
“I knew he was fine and hoped he would have a good race, but performing like that was beyond our wildest dreams. Technically it’s still fine for 2lbs.
“We are happy to go and we are as confident as possible. I don’t know if the rain will be absolutely necessary for him.”
Sam Thomas’ Iwilldoit was a compelling winner of the Welsh Grand National Trial earlier this month, prevailing 24 lengths from the Colorado Doc on a trip of just three miles.
The eight-year-old was given a 4-pound penalty for winning which left him 6 pounds wrong on the weights, but when the handicapper subsequently increased him by 10 pounds, he runs out of his correct score.
“It wasn’t a big surprise (the victory in the test), it certainly showed us what he can do,” the coach told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s always been a good jumper, it’s a pleasure to run home – it’s kind of natural, so it was a surprise to see him do what he did to Kelso when he nearly fell on the first shot. It was just a little bit of a a cancellation that day.
“Like any kind of stay, once you get them into their comfort zone, they can keep that gallop, I have no doubt they will get the trip.
“Native River brings a high level of class to the race, and we need to step up, we are aware of that. But the fact that we got 10th is a real plus. For a horse that likes to bowling somewhere close to the side. front, to have a nice low weight, will think to be loose.
“It’ll be great if it comes out, it’s been the plan for a while.”
Peter Fahey’s The Big Dog comes from County Kildare, with Scotland represented by Lucinda Russell and her Scottish national winner Mighty Thunder.
Also popular is Venetia Williams’ Hold That Taught, who started her season in good shape when she took a three and a quarter mile handicap at Carlisle in October.