2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River has a new calling – as a school prom chauffeur.
The National Hunt legend was retired last year after a glittering career that included wins in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh National, Denman Chase and that unforgettable duel with Might Bite in the Gold Cup. And in his first outing since his final race at Chepstow in December, Native River stunned onlookers by taking 16-year-old Zara Cox to her prom in Taunton.
While other students chose to arrive at the event using traditional modes of transport like limousines and luxury cars, the teenager stole the show aboard one of the game's most-loved horses.
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Video footage showed Zara aboard Native River as he trotted towards the red carpet laid out for the occasion. As she prepared to dismount the horse, the huge crowd in attendance gave a big round of applause.
Bloodstock agent Tom Malone is looking after the 12-year-old in his retirement, and he said it was only possible because Native River is much calmer than a lot of other thoroughbreds.
He told the Racing Post: "We turned off the main road into the golf complex and it was probably a half-mile long. There were cars, people, tractors and everything, but he never missed a beat.
"He marched on ears pricked and was actually last in. Every young person was standing and just paused and went 'wow'.
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"It was the most surreal thing I've seen in a long time. It was like he was standing in the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham. It was something to behold and I had a lump in my throat watching it.
"He loved it and even when I took him home he got his dance going. He loves life and is a real character."
Native River enjoyed a real love affair with the Cheltenham Gold Cup, winning the famous race in 2018. He came third in 2017 and fourth on two occasions, in 2019 and 2021.
He made his final racecourse appearance towards the end of last year when he was pulled up in the Welsh Grand National – a race he won off top-weight in 2016.
"He has been such a grand servant and we decided enough is enough," owner Garth Broom said following his retirement. "It is the first time in about 25 races that he has been out of the first four, I think. We have been very lucky to have him."
In 32 races under rules, the Colin Tizzard-trained star finished out of the top three on only six occasions. He entertained racing punters up and down the land during his seven years on the racecourse, and now he's making memories for a whole new generation.
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