Thursday 16 April 2020

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018

The 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Timico, featured 15 runners, but quickly developed into a memorable match between Native River and Might Bite, with none of their rivals ever landing a serious blow. On soft going, Native River, ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, made virtually all the running, but was pressed throughout by Might Bite, ridden by Nico De Boinville, and it was only after jumping the final fence that the former took a definite advantage, staying on strongly to win by 4½ lengths.

Indeed, on the run to the home turn, the King George VI Chase winner Might Bite looked to be travelling the better of the pair and took a narrow advantage between the last two fences. However, the 2016 Welsh National winner Native River wasn’t to be denied, regaining the advantage at the last fence and striding purposefully away from the obstacle to put the result beyond doubt. Anibale Fly, a 33/1 outsider trained by Tony Martin and ridden by Barry Geraghty, finished third, a further 4 lengths away.

Victory on the 5/1 third favourite gave Richard Johnson his second Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, after Looks Like Trouble in 2000, but he later fell foul of the stewards for using his whip above the permitted level in the closing stages. He was fined £6,550, commensurate with the winning prize money of £369,821 and banned for seven days.

Conversely, defeat for the 4/1 favourite prevented Nicky Henderson from completing a unique Champion Hurdle-Champion Chase-Gold Cup treble at a single Cheltenham Festival. Henderson, though, was philosophical in defeat, saying, “A great race and he has done nothing wrong. We were taking on a horse who absolutely loves this [going] and unfortunately we don’t.”

The second favourite, Our Duke, trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Robbie Power, proved a major disappointment, being pulled up four fences from home after a couple of mistakes at halfway, while none of Willie Mullins’ four runners made much of an impact. The outsider of his quartet, Djakadam, fared best, finishing fifth, beaten 20½ lengths, while Killultagh Vic, Bachasson and Total Recall all failed to complete the course.

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