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Mick Fitzgerald: Native River can cement his Gold Cup claims while this 5/1 punt looks timely

A Super Saturday smash-up of racing action at Newbury & Warwick full of Cheltenham clues and hopefully a winner a two.

It’s a shame that either Native River or Bristol De Mai is going to be disappointed in the Denman Chase (2.25pm) on Saturday as both have big Cheltenham Gold Cup ambitions next month.

Richard Johnson is made for Native River and should serve it up to his rivals from flag fall. I was surprised he didn’t get entered in the Grand National as he’s such a strong stayer and jumps so well. He looks tailor-made for Aintree.

However, Native River’s front-running tactics will suit Daryll Jacob aboard Bristol De Mai, as he can be a little keen if they go slow early.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey showed at Haydock last time that he is better smothered up in a big field. He enjoyed the experience and ran out and impressive winner there, but I just wonder if the race was set up for him a bit?

He’s unlikely to get that courtesy off Native River who is an out-and-out grinder and comes here on the up, having won a Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National. He’s also two wins from three starts at Newbury. This track plays to his strengths and he’s going to be a tough nut to crack.

I just fancy him to shade it, but Bristol De Mai’s connections shouldn’t be too downbeat if they get close but no cigar. Cheltenham will present a different test again for both of them next month.

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Jump over to all the latest odds on PP.com

I still think that if Altior was in the Champion Hurdle he’d be an odds-on shot. He looks to be transferring that level of form from hurdles to fences and if that continues, the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase 3pm is his for the taking.

While this is his first step out of novice company, he looks ready for it and will learn from it.

I’d really like to see him do what Sprinter Sacre did a few years back when he won here, went on to win the Arkle Chase at the Festival and stamped himself as one of the most exciting chasers around.

Fox Norton is no mug and was a 10-length third to Douvan in last year’s Arkle. He may prefer better ground than he’s likely to get on Saturday. The Colin Tizzard yard is having a quieter time of it at the moment, even if he was never going to maintain his pre-Christmas strike rate.

Betfair Hurdle

It’s a shame Consul de Thaix came out of the Betfair Hurdle (3.35pm) as I thought the race was set up for him. The novices look the obvious place to start as they could be still ahead of the handicapper and MOVEWITHTHETIMES looks the one for me now. Nothing went right for him when he was fifth to Moon Racer at Cheltenham (Ballyandy back in third) but he made no mistake at Wincanton last time out.

Ballyandy deserves plenty of respect in a race that the trainer has won with a similar type before in Splash of Ginge and there is nothing between him and Movewiththetimes. Song Light has been well backed and has a squeak while Clyne, who won in the fog at Haydock, is still ahead of the handicapper on this mark and was narrowly beaten by The New One last time.

The TV action kicks off with the 3m handicap at 1.50pm and I really want to see Deborah Hamers’ Tobefair record win number seven on the bounce in an unbeaten run that stretches back to June 2015.

ITV’S cameras are at Warwick too and I’m willing to give Rons Dream another chance back over hurdles in the mares’ race (2.05pm).

She didn’t seem to enjoy fences & was a smart winner at Ayr at the back end of last season. Her trainer is hitting a bit of form now.

The Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (2.40pm) could see Flying Angel bounce back after two disappointing runs since a runaway winner at Perth. If he’s cack to anything like his capability, he will be value to beat these.

Vibrato Valtat is a horse with a good record around Warwick and should win the 2m 4f Chase @ 3.15pm on the back of his last run.

What do you think?