Above: Richard Johnson on Native River leads Might Bite at the final fence of the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Champion jockey Richard Johnson, without a winner at the Cheltenham Festival through the first three days, hit the target in the most spectacular fashion as he made every yard of the running on the tough-as-teak Colin Tizzard-trained Native River (5/1), winning a spine tingling battle for the 2018 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup as he beat Might Bite in a race to remember.
The pair were first and second throughout the championship race setting a strong gallop, and by the time they raced down the hill to the third last fence a host of high-class rivals were already in trouble. Nico de Boinville on Might Bite (4/1f) looked to be going best as he joined Native River at the second-last, but the 2016 Welsh National winner – third to Sizing John in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup – stays well and has gears, and he pressed on again going to the last, breaking Might Bite’s heart by four-and-a-half lengths. The pair finished clear of Anibale Fly (33/1) who ran on well for a brave third place.
“I’m speechless,” said Johnson, whose only other Gold Cup success came on Looks Like Trouble in 2000. “He’s been a fantastic horse for me to ride. He’s amazing. He jumped for fun. He just wants it so much. 18 years seems a long time ago now.
“I knew Nico was there. I just think in the conditions today I’ve outstayed him. They’re two very brave horses. Honestly, it’s just fantastic. All credit to the Tizzards. This was always the target.”
Jockey Harry Cobden rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner and initiated a famous Cheltenham double for Colin Tizzard when Kilbricken Storm (33/1) landed the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (1450), yet another big surprise as the bookies celebrated on the final day of the meeting. Nicky Henderson’s OK Corral (16/1) stayed on for second ahead of stable companion and heavily backed 11/4f favourite Santini in third.
Teenage jockey sensation Jack Kennedy won the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival for the third day running as the maiden Farclas (9/1) got the better of a battle with Mr Adjudicator (8/1) to land the prestigious Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle (1330) in tremendous style. Hot favourite Apple’s Shakira (6/5f) was the subject of many of today’s horse racing tips but failed to fire in finishing only fourth.
“He’s been running very well last two runs and is improving the whole time,” said Kennedy. “Gordon had him spot on today. He does so well with these horses – it’s unreal. His attention to detail is second to none.”
There was a big shock in the 24-runner Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (1410) as 33/1 shot Mohaayed, ridden by lady jockey Bridget Andrews, got the better of fellow outsider Remilluc (50/1) to provide trainer Dan Skelton with his first winner of this Cheltenham Festival.
The gambled-on Willie Mullins-trained Whiskey Sour (7/1) stayed on to be third, just ahead of 16/1-shot Chesterfield, while Lagostovegas (20/1) dead-heated for fifth place with 12/1 shot Spiritofthegames – recommended at 25/1 each-way by Betting.net’s free horse racing tips earlier in the week – many firms set to pay out on our selection after offering each-way the first five places.
Gordon Elliott registered his eighth training success of the week (and his second of the afternoon) when Blow By Blow stayed on well under young Donagh Meyler to defeat 33/1 shot Discorama by five lengths in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (1650), capping a memorable week as well for owners the Gigginstown House Stud.
Pacha du Polder 25/1, ridden by Harriet Tucker, made it back-to-back wins in the St James’ Place Challenge Cup Open Hunter Chase (1610) as he gave trainer Paul Nicholls his first winner of the meeting. Nicholls went on to complete a double on the day when the Barry Geraghty ridden Le Prezien (15/2), caught long-time leader Gino Trail (25/1) – recommended each-way in today’s horse racing tips by Betting.net – in the last race of the meeting, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (1730).