Cheltenham Gold Cup winner thriving in new career as he qualifies for HOYS on first attempt

  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Learn more
  • Native River, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who won more than £1 million in prize money, has qualified for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) on his first attempt as he takes to his new career “like second nature”.

    The Brooms’ and Tom Malone’s 14-year-old superstar (known at home as Garfield or River) picked up his HOYS ticket with Emma Vine when they placed second in the SEIB Search for a Star riding horse qualifier at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, on Monday (27 May). The class was won by Katy Llewellyn and Polydamos.

    Emma, who competes in dressage and showjumping and is new to showing, has done all of River’s retraining since he retired from the track at the end of 2021, and said it was “beyond her wildest dreams” to qualify for HOYS.

    “I cried. I can’t believe it, and especially to qualify in a riding horse class and not a racehorse class!” Emma told H&H.

    “I went into that class to give him the feel of the ring before the retrained racehorse class (in which they placed 5th), and it couldn’t have gone any better. He went beautifully, the ride judge didn’t want to get off him. She said to me, ‘Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it’ – and the conformation judge said he is just a beautiful model.”

    Native River pictured in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup..

    Emma said River has “taken to his new career like second nature”. Native River was trained to victory in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup by Colin Tizzard, under jockey Richard Johnson. Following River’s  retirement, he was given six months in the field and did some light hacking in 2022, and last year his workload increased and he made his showing debut. They qualified for and competed at the Jockey Club RoR national championships last August, and next month they will compete at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby having qualified for the Tattersalls RoR amateur and open classes.

    “I have showjumped at Hickstead but not for many years, so to be going back there feels like a massive achievement. When we started off last year we couldn’t trot circles or canter on the correct leg, but it all just fell into place,” said Emma.

    “Showing for me was a minefield to start! I’d never done it before and it was a learning curve and we were both brand new to it, but last year’s season went phenomenal. My friend Jessica Westwood has been showing me the ropes and taught me about the special plaits, quarter markings, and everything I need to know, and I’ve learned so much.”

    Emma said River is “the perfect gentleman”.

    “It’s an absolute privilege and I feel so lucky to have such an amazing horse to ride. He’s been so good to retrain and wherever I take him people want to meet him and take their picture with him,” she said.

    “He wraps his head round you and gives you a cuddle. He stands perfectly, you can hack him in the heaviest traffic, absolutely nothing fazes him – apart from the time when I took him to the RoR parade at Cheltenham and he thought he was there to win the Gold Cup again!

    “He really is a super special horse and there’s not going to be many more like him.”

    Emma, who has recently started introducing River to jumping over coloured poles, hopes to qualify him for the SEIB racehorse to riding horse class at HOYS, and also has her eyes on qualification for the Rising Stars racehorse to riding horse final at the London International Horse Show.

    “Thoroughbreds really are incredible, and still overlooked by some people – they are so versatile and can do so many jobs,” said Emma.

    “The good thing about having a horse like River is that hopefully he will bring to the forefront for other people to think, ‘Maybe I have overlooked thoroughbreds’.”

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...