Cheltenham gold cup 2018 native river sees off might bite after epic duel to claim victory apple nutrition oconomowoc

For most of the week colin tizzard has been almost anonymous and richard johnson, the champion jockey, even more so during the blitz of irish winners. But on friday they combined to carry off the week’s most prestigious prize when native river, the 5-1 third favourite, galloped away with the timico gold cup.

So it was the dairy farmer from milborne port with the sheep farmer from herefordshire on board a horse owned by a retired farmer, and not the irish, which finally thwarted nicky henderson’s attempt to win the meeting’s big three races as native river outstayed the lambourn trainer’s might bite, the 4-1 favourite, to win by four and a half lengths.

This year’s gold cup was a two-horse race from start to finish. Nothing else got a look in. Native river, the slogger, and might bite, the sometimes quirky crown prince of steeplechasing, filled those positions from the moment the starter dropped his flag to the moment hats and newspapers were flung into the air as native river crossed the line.Native river

Knowing he was riding a welsh national winner in the mud johnson set off with a plan to make it a war of attrition and, with his mount jumping exuberantly, he began to turn the screw from the top of the hill. Behind him a collection of the best staying chasers in england and ireland laboured unable to get a shot in before, one by one, waving the white flag.

Turning in going to the penultimate fence, though, might bite, who had shadowed native river throughout, loomed alongside and although nico de boinville’s body language and stillness suggested he was going the better, the jockey was trying to nurse might bite though the mud.

Still level at the last it was there that native river’s stamina began to kick in and up the hill might bite began to wearily tread water as his rival galloped all the way to the line. The irish pair anibale fly and road to respect arrived at four length intervals behind might bite in third and fourth.Nicky henderson

“the irish have been winning everything for three days – I thought we had no chance,” said an emotional tizzard, best known before this triumph as the trainer of cue card. He has endured a topsy-turvy season which has included an infection in the stable, a season-ending injury to thistlecrack and the death of one of his principal patrons, alan potts.

“to then go and have two winners (he also won the preceding albert bartlett hurdle with kilbricken castle) in an hour is unbelievable. The chap on him was as good as the horse. He was brave and the horse was braver and he kept pushing on. The gold cup is everything and the fact we’ve won it is unreal.

“up until last night we had not been that competitive. The irish have blown us away this week and we couldn’t even buy one at the sales last night. I said to my lot we needed to buck up a bit and, by christ, we have.”

Recalling that he had once stood down by the last fence watching the dikler win in the early 1970s as a teenage farmer, he added: “I never thought then I would ever have a runner in it, let alone win it.Native river and I’ve just done it. We’ve had the perfect prep with the horse and no excuses.”

Owner garth broom, who with his wife anne sold his farm and invested some of the proceeds in horses under the brocade racing banner, said: “I said to someone on the stands ‘wake me up if I’m dreaming.’ it’s not often they come true.”

Far from losing anything in defeat, might bite’s reputation was enhanced. “there were 12 others that never got into it,” said henderson. “we’re very proud of him. You can’t say he tried to shirk it today. He never flinched and I think the horse has gone up in people’s estimation.

“it’s a difficult place to finish second but you have to accept it and it’s been a great week. It’s quite nice to see a british 1-2 – that’s been about the rarest thing this week.”

Willie mullins has saddled more than 50 winners at this meetings yet has never sent out a gold cup winner. There have been a number of near misses but perhaps total recall can be the horse that corrects that omission on his remarkable CV.Nicky henderson his progress this season has been rapid and most gold cups are won by a horse going forwards in their career. Might bite is a strong rival. He won the RSA last year, despite wandering all over the run-in, and looks a much more straightforward horse this season. Killultagh vic and our duke have done more than enough to suggest they can be concerned.

Nicky henderson is enjoying a fabulous week and can add yet another victory to his ever-growing tally through the exciting prospect santini. His time when winning over 2m 5f here on trials day marks him as top class and the runner-up, black op, chased home samcro here in the ballymore novices hurdle on wednesday. Having won a point-to-point over three miles as a five-year-old, stamina will hardly be an issue for santini. Poetic rhythm goes well here and is expected to enjoy the step up to three miles. Dortmund park, who has had a wind operation since his latest appearance, could be the pick of the irish.Ground better

Not many runners but a tight race. Apple’s shakira has does nothing wrong when winning three times on this track since joining nicky henderson. While her two most recent efforts are hard to rate that highly as they were tactical affairs, she did clock a smart time when beating gumball by 17 lengths in november and the form of her next victory was boosted by nube negra’s fine run in the fred winter here on wednesday.

Stormy ireland looks a strong threat. Even on heavy ground, very few races are won by almost 60 lengths, which is what stormy ireland achieved on his sole start for willie mullins in december. Although that bare form is modest, he must be useful for he was never out of a low gear. Mr adjudicator, also a mullins inmate, has shown his tenacity and won a grade one on only his second start. Redicean has shown useful form but may yet have to up his game to score.

Gold cup day is finally here and the great race takes place at prestbury park at 3.30pm on the final day of a festival that has more than ever been dominated by irish owners, trainers and jockeys.Native river there are 18 horses in the field for the 3m 2½f chase and the going, as it has been all week, is soft, heavy in places. Might bite gives nicky henderson a chance of the triple crown but which other raiders have a realistic chance of joining the roll call of cotswold legends alongside golden miller, desert orchid, best mate, kauto star et al?

If the gold cup was decided on talent alone, then they would be handing the trophy over to might bite and company this morning. But he is like a footballer who has got all the skills but is as daft as a brush: he might boss the game, he might have a moment of madness.

Last year, I thought he was coming to join us on the ITV podium via the guinness tent when he went walkabout during the RSA chase. If the ground was good, I would fancy him for my life, but I am not sure he will be up for a war of attrition.

You need a horse who is brave and will stay every yard of the trip.Native river native river is bound to be popular and I am sure he will run well, but if you have a go at the gold cup and do not win it first time, you do not very often come back in glory. Sixty-six times this century a horse has tried to win the gold cup at the second time of asking, none have succeeded.

"We would have to be concerned about the ground and him getting the trip in it so everything will have to go right. He faces a tough task but he’s quite still a young horse, in fact a baby in a lot of ways, so this might not be the be all and end all," he wrote.

"Obviously we want to win the race and if the ground was better, I’d be very optimistic but it will be hard work out there so I couldn’t be as confident as I would be if the ground was better.

"That said, he is a king george winner, and RSA winner and has already proven what a high class horse he is – I just hope he is classy enough to overcome what are likely to be less than ideal conditions."