NATIVE RIVER saw off Might Bite to make all the running in what was an epic duel for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Third 12 months ago, the Colin Tizzard-trained Native River (5-1) went two places better to win in the hands of champion jockey Richard Johnson, who was landing the blue riband for the second time after Looks Like Trouble in 2000.
Native River and Might Bite, the 4-1 favourite, were the first two throughout and it was the former who proved stronger from the last fence to prevail by four and a half lengths. The pair were a further four lengths clear of 33-1 chance Anibale Fly in third.
Johnson said: “I’m speechless. He’s been a fantastic horse for me and I was lucky to pick up the ride on him.
“He’s just amazing. He jumps for fun. I was getting squeezed, but at the second-last and the last he just wanted it so much.
“I knew Nico (de Boinville, on Might Bite) was there and to be fair to Might Bite, he’s run a hell of race, but I think we just outstayed him. They are two very brave horses.”
He added: “Eighteen years (since Looks Like Trouble) seems a long time!”