20 Mar 18

In my twenty years in charge of jump handicapping at the BHA I have been fortunate to witness some outstanding achievements at the Cheltenham Festival. Big Buck’s winning four consecutive Stayers’ Hurdles, Best Mate winning three consecutive Gold Cups, Kauto Star regaining the Gold Cup after losing it to Denman the previous year, A P McCoy carrying Synchronised to victory in 2012.

The Grade 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase

I am struggling to remember a race which left me as breathless as the 2018 Timico Gold Cup. It is very rare in any 3 mile+ chase for the horses who jump the first fence in first and second place to still be there at the last fence and then at the finishing post. Has it ever happened in the Gold Cup before?

Having watched the replay a number of times I still think Might Bite is going to win at the second last. He would have been a very decent winner of the race, equal in my view to Coneygree (172) in 2015. The final uphill furlong on soft ground with heavy patches found him out but it was still his best ever performance.

Anibale Fly showed himself to be the most thorough stayer of the Irish trained 3 mile chasers by keeping on to be a fast finishing third. Before the race I had Road To Respect on 168 and Andrew Shaw the new Irish Handicapper had him a pound lower. I have to agree now that he was right and I have dropped him to that figure although I only have him performing to 165 at Cheltenham. As a result Anibale Fly is raised to 168, which puts him 9lbs. well in for the Randox Health Grand National.

The effect of having a performance figure of 168 for Anibale Fly is to put Native River on 176. Only Denman, Imperial Commander, Long Run, Bobs Worth and Kauto Star x 2 have been higher in my time in the job. It puts him just ahead of Kicking King (175) and Best Mate (175) who in my view was unlucky not to be rated higher as he only ever faced opposition either past their best or inferior to Might Bite.

Another link with Best Mate is how few (2) times this year’s winner has run in the season. Best Mate twice only ran on three occasions in the season when he won his Gold Cups but has there ever been a year when the winner was only having his second run?

Returning to the Randox Health Grand National there are now five horses that are technically well in. Anibale Fly (+9), Bellshill (+7), Shantou Flyer (+5) Rathvinden (+4) and Tiger Roll (+2).

Native River getting a lot of attention after winning The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup