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Cheltenham Festival: Native River powers to thrilling Gold Cup glory

17 March 2018, 01:26 | Nina Hammond

Cheltenham 2018 tips: Gold Cup best bets as Native River battles Might Bite

David Mullins and Ruby Walsh standing out of the saddle on Yorkhill and Faugheen respectively ahead of the Cheltenham Festival at Prestbury Park

Johnson, the leading steeplechase jockey in England for the last three seasons, said Native River gave him a confident feel throughout the race and particularly in the final mile.

Might Bite was trying to compete an unprecedented treble for Henderson, who had trained Altior to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Buveur D'Air to take out the Champion Hurdle earlier in the week.

"This horse is incredible he jumps for fun", said Johnson, his face wreathed in smiles.

"I'm speechless. He's been a fantastic horse for me and I was lucky to pick up the ride on him".

Anibale Fly, a 33-1 outsider, finished third, four lengths behind Might Bite, in this country's most prestigious weight-for-age race for jumpers. He jumps for fun.

Last year's second Minella Rocco will be back hoping to go one better, the ever reliable Djakadam may get his ground, while Might Bite is "the horse that would be king" with all the potential to be a superstar.

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He just powered away.

Native River had finished second a year ago, but held off Nicky Henderson's Might Bite in a fascinating joust up the hill to complete momentous day for trainer Colin Tizzard, who celebrated a first Gold Cup success.

'Eighteen years (since Looks Like Trouble) seems a long time!' he added.

The action in the Cotswolds concludes this Friday with the showpiece of the steeplechasing season, the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase at 3.30pm.

"Those are two courageous horses, but I was pleased that Might Bite kept me company".

"We've had a wonderful preparation with him and his form has gone on from previous year". Third in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Native River won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury Racecourse and the Welsh National at Chepstow Racecourse in his final starts of 2016.

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