Like many others, I thought the race was wide open beforehand, but from the off there were only two horses in it, the rest of the field were like the 70,000 crowd in the stands, just spectators.
I've never seen a race like it, Native River and Might Bite were at it from the start, trading blows and daring each other into increasing the pace and spectacular leaps at every fence - I don't think either horse made a single jumping error. As they jumped the "water" on the back straight of the 2nd-circuit and started to run up the hill, only the leading pair were not under a shove from their jockey - and this field was chockablock full of proven top-class 3-mile chasers. As they jumped the 17th fence (open-ditch) Killultagh Vic was already tailed-off and not long after Saphir Du Rheu and Our Duke pulled-up .
At the 3rd-last fence Native River and Might Bite were 5-lengths clear of Road To Respect, Djakadam and Anibale Fly with the remainder having no chance. Coming to the 2nd-last fence, Might Bite made his move - if he was going to win this race this was the time to seek the advantage. Upsides at the 2nd-last, they jumped and landed together and then ran head-to-head to the final fence - no quarter given nor asked. Again, they jumped and landed together but, this time, Native River picked-up better and stayed-on strong up the famous hill that had seen so much action during the week and was churned-up like a ploughed field. While the stride of Might Bite shortened, that of Native River never faltered, he was loving the mud and, with the race won, he flashed his tail at his rival.
What a race - and Native River is a year younger than Might Bite.
Going into the race, I thought if NATIVE RIVER could repeat his Welsh National performance (my ratings 169) then he would win the Gold Cup. I've rated this years race via the 3rd placed Anibale Fly who I thought ran to his OR159 rating - and that puts Native River on 169, exactly what he ran on my ratings when winning the Welsh National over 3m5f on soft ground. On the way to the races, I was sat in Pittville Park having a coffee and I chatted with a couple of other racegoers and explained to them that horses are very consistent; they don't suddenly "find" 10 or 15lb of improvement - what happens is that they run to their best when in their optimum conditions.
At the course, stood amongst the crowd, I chatted with other punters about who they were on, and the majority were on Might Bite. What about Native River, I asked? He can't win as it is against the trends - no horse placed in the previous Gold Cup has won it the following year, not in ages. Eh, what about Kauto Star (won 2009), what about The Fellow (won 1994)? But he's only had one race this season, that's a negative - and what about Bob's Worth (won 2013)? As I remarked to one punter, if trends were so successful at finding the winner, the bookmakers would be out of business.
Were does that leave Might Bite? I have him rated at 164, which compares favourably with his win at Aintree last April (162) and his win in the RSA Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival (160). He could possibly run better on a flatter track and on better ground, but he is a 9yo and he's not going to find any more improvement at his age.
The 4th placed Road To Respect is rated 156 by me, and that fits in well with his ratings for winning at Leopardstown on 28Dec (161) when he beat Balko Des Flos, and his rating for beating Yorkhill in the Ryanair Gold Gold at Punchestown last April (155). He is a long way short of his official rating of OR168, and I've no idea how he was given that rating (perhaps the handicapper had too much sherry at Xmas).
Overall, it was a great Festival for me and followers of the blog selections. I was a bit disappointed with the ride given to SANTINI yesterday in the 3-mile Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, and I felt he was given far too much to do on the ground. I think it will be shown that he should have won yesterday.
My recommended wagers for the week were:-
2:10pm FOOTPAD - £10 win @ 5/4 - WON profit £12.50
and SUGAR BARON £5 win @ 12/1 - Lost £5.00
Total Profit = £133.35
Return on Investment = 98.70%
Cost of this advice = Nothing, free. only your time - unless you want to make a donation which will be gratefully received.
Next stop - AINTREE