CHAMPION Jockey Richard Johnson goes in search of his third Cheltenham Gold Cup success at next week’s Cheltenham Festival when he lines up on Native River bidding to repeat his triumph of last year.

Kingsland resident Johnson is hopeful his mount will be able to retain the crown he won 12 months ago.

“He‘s got every chance of winning it again," said Johnson.

Going left – handed over three miles and two furlongs around Cheltenham are probably his ideal conditions. It will take a good one to beat him and I wouldn’t swap him for anything else in the race."

With the heavy rain over recent days, confidence is growing that Native River will be able to triumph in his customary front-running style.

A recent injury to Johnson at Newbury races has given him an enforced lay-off but a welcome chance to re-charge his batteries ahead of the National Hunt Festival.

Aside from Native River and the rides from his retained trainer Phillip Hobbs, Johnson has the attractive mounts of Lalor, well fancied in Tuesday's Arkle Trophy Chase and Brewinupastorm from the yard of up and coming trainer Olly Murphy in Wednesday's opening Ballymore Novices Hurdle to look forward to.

Kings Caple trainer Venetia Williams and her stable jockey Charlie Deutsch has hit a rich vein of form recently and the rain has heightened the chance of their horse Yala Enki in Tuesday’s Ultima Handicap Chase, whilst the partnership also have Aso, who could also run a big race in Thursday's Ryanair Chase.

Another trainer in good form at present is Much Marcle resident Tom Lacey with an impressive strike rate of over 20 percent and his Kateson could have each-way prospects in Friday’s Albert Bartlett Hurdle as the three mile trip will be appreciated and he also has the consistent Jester Jet entered in the Coral Cup also on Wednesday.

Kerry Lee will be hoping from a big run from her well weighted Happy Diva in Thursday's Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Plate Chase and the Byton trainer could also run the veteran Gino Trail in Friday's Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase .