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Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Grade 1, Cheltenham 15:30
£625,000 added,
5yo plus,
3m 2f 110y, Class 1  
Friday 16th March 2018

Native River wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup!

1 Native River 5/1
2 Might Bite 4/1F
3 Anibale Fly 33/1
15 ran NR: Double Shuffle, Minella Rocco, Shantou Flyer
Distances: 4½l, 4l, 4l Time: 7m 2.60s (slow by 25.60s)

Trainer Colin Tizzard teamed up with champion jockey Richard Johnson to land today's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with Native River.

Native River

The 5/1 winner made the running until headed briefly at the second-last fence by 4/1 favourite Might Bite, but he was soon back on terms and pulled clear on the run-in to score by four and a half lengths. Four lengths behind Might Bite was Anibale Fly, 33/1.
Tizzard fought back tears when saying: "It's unreal. It's the fourth day and the Irish have been winning everything - I was thinking our form is not as good as we imagined. Then Richard Johnson gives that brave horse that sort of ride and everything changes.
"When Might Bite came alongside, and might even have headed him, I thought oh, no, but then Richard was brilliant. You wouldn't tell him what to do, because he knew what he was going to do a week ago.
"He [Native River] wasn't quite right after Cheltenham last year [he was third in this race] and we couldn't get him going any earlier this season. We made a plan to give him one run at Newbury before coming here, but I was getting a bit jumpy at Christmas and thought we ought to run him then. However, we stuck to the plan and it's paid off. 
"I came here at 17 and 18 years of age, and never thought I would win the [Timico Cheltenham] Gold Cup and I've just done it. If you ask me again I'll start crying again."
Tizzard's son and assistant, Joe, said: "That was fantastic. Dickie [Johnson] was in the right place at the right time all the way. Dickie knew what he was doing and set the fractions.
"We've had the perfect prep with the horse and had no excuses. It's gone to plan - although it's been a tough three days, and our horses have finished placed or unplaced rather than winning. It's such a tough place to win at. We had a shock win in the last race [33/1 winner Kilbricken Storm], but this was our best chance of the week."

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
£625,000 added, 5yo plus, 3m 2f 70y, Class 1
15 ran
Going: Soft, Heavy in places

Pos D Horse SP Jockey Weight Trainer Age
1st Native River (IRE) 5/1 R Johnson
C L Tizzard 8
2nd Might Bite (IRE) 4/1f Nico de Boinville
N J Henderson 9
3rd 4 Anibale Fly (FR) 33/1 B J Geraghty
A J Martin 8
4th 4 Road To Respect (IRE) 9/1 S W Flanagan
N Meade 7
5th 8 Djakadam (FR) 25/1 Mr P W Mullins
W P Mullins 9
6th 18 Definitly Red (IRE) 8/1 Danny Cook
B Ellison 9
7th Tea For Two 50/1 Lizzie Kelly
Nick Williams 9
8th 7 Edwulf 20/1 Mr Derek O'Connor
Joseph P O'Brien 9
9th 18 American (FR) 25/1 N D Fehily
H Fry 8
PU Killultagh Vic (IRE) 8/1 P Townend
W P Mullins 9
PU Our Duke (IRE) 9/2 R M Power
Mrs J Harrington 8
PU Outlander (IRE) 20/1 J W Kennedy
G Elliott 10
PU Saphir Du Rheu (FR) 66/1 Sam Twiston-Davies
P F Nicholls 9
F Bachasson (FR) 33/1 D E Mullins
W P Mullins 7
F Total Recall (IRE) 14/1 D J Mullins
W P Mullins 9
NR Double Shuffle (IRE) A P Heskin
T R George 8
NR Minella Rocco (IRE) M P Walsh
Jonjo O'Neill 8
NR Shantou Flyer (IRE) James Bowen
Richard Hobson 8

Richard Johnson's outstanding front-running ride collared him a second Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, 18 years after his first victory on Looks Like Trouble in 2000.

Native River

Richard Johnson, who is the current champion jockey, and the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River were stalked for the entire race by 4/1 favourite Might Bite and Nico de Boinville. But Johnson sent eight-year-old Native River clear after the final fence and drew away to win by four and a half lengths at 5/1.
Johnson said: "It's been a long 18 years! To be honest, I was a passenger. He's a fantastic horse to ride. He loves jumping and almost waits for things in front and just does what he has to. I thought we had gone quite steady but sometimes when you are on a good horse it doesn't feel that quick, and I thought I needed to move it on a gear down the back straight and the more I asked from him, the better he jumped. 
"From four out onwards he just kept picking up. I could see Might Bite next to me and going to two fences out he looked to be travelling quite well, but I knew Native River is a stayer and I felt we had to try to give him as much to do as possible. He answered every call and at the last he was very brave. Up the run-in he just kept going. It was very testing conditions out there - I'm not sure we will see them as testing again, but he's a warrior and it's a pleasure to ride him. 
"I don't think Might Bite ever headed us but I could tell he was going nicely and that Nico was not wanting to commit and go on, but I think he was thinking I was going to lead him. Might Bite's run a fantastic race and on a different track on a different day in different conditions the result might have been different, but today everything was in our favour. Native River has got a massive heart and just kept finding.
"The owners [Brocade Racing] are fantastic. They love their horses and whatever Colin Tizzard said [in terms of preparation] they would have gone along with. Last year he had a fantastic season but a very busy one, and they felt this year this race was the one to come for and it just fitted well really; the King George wasn't going to be ideal for him and the Newbury race was perfect. Even if he only runs twice this year, he doesn't owe us much now!
"For me the Gold Cup is the most important race of the year. I know for some people the Grand National is the 'people's race', but this is the best of the best. It's everyone's dream to own a Gold Cup horse and to ride one is brilliant; to win it now twice is fantastic. The championship has always been my main target but when you can have one or two of these along the way, they are very special.

"It is always down to the horse. If you are on the right horse and get into the right rhythm, it makes riding from the front almost easier as there is nothing to get in your way. Very few horses are as straightforward as he is, or as brave; I am very lucky to have got the ride and we've had some great days over the past couple of years. He's only eight years old and hopefully there are many more to come."

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