Native River outstayed King George winner Might Bite after the last to win a pulsating Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the Festival. Colin Tizzard's gelding, who finished third in the race twelve months ago, relished the testing conditions and answered every call thrown at him by Richard Johnson. The first two dominated the race from the outset and they pulled clear rounding the final bend. Might Bite travelled the stronger of the pair and looked set for victory jumping the penultimate fence but he was unable to get past the gutsy winner. The underfoot conditions were almost certainly the difference because the runner-up would have preferred a livelier surface. It was a terrific spectacle, if not the result I was hoping for.
The Triumph Hurdle didn't provide the result I was hoping for either with Apple's Shakira only finishing fourth. The Saddler Maker filly raced too keenly and had nothing left when the leaders made the long run from the second last to the final flight. Nicky Henderson indicated afterwards she will head to Aintree next month sporting a hood. Having backed her ante-post at 33/1 and 25/1, it was disappointing to say the least, especially as she didn't even finish in the first three. The race was dominated by the Irish fielding the first three home.
Very much a day for bookmakers with no favourites obliging and winning SPs of 9/1, 33/1, 33/1, 5/1, 25/1, 11/1 and 15/2, I was therefore pleased to get one winner, namely Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. Advised in the Cheltenham Festival Update at 20/1, a big thank you to Irish expert Declan Phelan who pointed me in the right direction. A Grade 1 bumper winner for Willie Mullins a couple of years ago, the Robin Des Champs gelding had won a couple of times over hurdles earlier this season for Gordon Elliott and was making his handicap debut here. Donagh Meyler's mount was allowed to dominate from the outset before recording a five lengths victory. Elliott had come close to winning the race a couple of times in the past and it capped a magnificent week. Indeed, Gordon Elliott (8 winners - 22 in total) and Willie Mullins (7 - 61 in total) dominated the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. On the jockey front, Davy Russell came out on top with 4 winners. I have backed the Irishman for the last few years but left him alone this time around. Typical.
However, it has been an excellent week for the Update with 8 winners (at advised prices) - Coo Star Sivola (5/1), Buveur D'Air (4/7), Samcro (4/6), Altior (8/11), Delta Work (14/1), The Storyteller (10/1), Laurina (8/11) and Blow By Blow (20/1) - plus 5 seconds. The reports from the two preview nights I attended last week proved priceless, too, in particular Gordon Elliott's summary of his runners during his phone-in at Hamilton last Friday. I suspect Sandsend would have gone close, too, in the County Hurdle but he sadly broke a leg on the run to the final flight. Owner Jared Sullivan has experienced the highs and lows of the Festival in the last 24 hours. Thank you once again to those clients who have emailed - it sounds like plenty of them have had a memorable week. I will be back to update the Diary shortly. It's time to crack on with Ahead On The Flat.
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