Cheltenham 2018 Day Four Review – Gold Cup Classic
Might Bite and Native River served us up a classic in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with the latter coming back to become the first horse this century to win a first Gold Cup having been previously beaten in the race.
On a day that was something of a retrieval for the English trainers it was Colin Tizzard’s eight-year-old who went two places better than last year and defeated the RSA winner Might Bite in as good a spectacle as anyone could have asked for.
Native River returned from a setback at the end of last season to win the Gold Cup on just his second start of the campaign and give champion jockey Richard Johnson a second win in the race having previously been victorious on Looks Like Trouble.
Tizzard said: “The Gold Cup is everything and the fact that we’ve won it is unreal. With horses, you’re never so far away from having a good one as you may think. Up until last night, we had not been that competitive and at the sales last night, everything was buying ones that we couldn’t afford, then we won the two races today! It’s a fantastic way to spend your life. Our horses went out of form at Christmas which coincided with the flu injections, so we eased off with them a bit and that may have helped them going into the spring campaign. You might not always plan these things, but now they’re fresh again and running well.
This has been the plan for Native River since last year’s Gold Cup when he picked up the ligament problem.
…He couldn’t run till at least Christmas and we haven’t talked about the future plans.”
Given Tizzard’s love of Punchestown there would have to be every possibility that Native River could turn up there at the end of April and what a draw that would be for the Kildare venue.
Also bound for Punchestown will be most of the 17 Irish-trained winners of the week, the last two of which were trained on Friday by Gordon Elliott who, for the second year in a row, was crowned leading trainer at The Festival as he equalled Willie Mullins’ record of eight over the four days.
Farclas opened his account over hurdles by winning the Triumph Hurdle to open the card and it was a fitting way to do it.
Elliott said: “We are having an unbelievable week. I keep saying it but the staff I have, the owners and the horses – it is unbelievable and a big thanks to everyone.
“Farclas was just beaten in a Grade Two on his first start and then he was beaten in a Grade One by the horse who was second today. There was only a good jump between them, so the Irish form has stood up.”
The Elliott double was completed by the Grade 1 winner Blow By Blow who made use of a lenient handicap mark to give Elliott and Gigginstown a second win in a row in the Martin Pipe Conditional Race.
He said: “In fairness to Donagh, I don’t think they went much of a gallop and he got a nice, soft lead. Blow By Blow is a Grade One winner and looked well-handicapped, although I thought the ground had gone for him. What a week.
We were leading trainer last year and to come here again and get eight winners is unbelievable.
“We will enjoy it,” he concluded.