We continue our look back on the 2017/18 National Hunt season, with our attention now turning to the race of the season. Whether it be an enthralling tactical battle or a pulsatingly close finish, some races just capture our imaginations and this season was full of fantastic spectacles. We asked out Twitter followers to vote for what they thought was the best race of the campaign and the results are down below. In our previous poll we looked at the most improved horse of the season and the results can be found on site now!
It was billed as a two-horse race on paper and that is how it worked out in the end, with Native River setting a searching pace that only the enigmatic Might Bite could follow. Both jumping with brilliant zest, the pair drew clear down the side of the course and gave us the battle we all wanted to see. With Might Bite drawing alongside approaching the second last on the bridle, it looked as though Native River had reached the end of his tether. Richard Johnson continued to get a tune out of his gutsy partner all the way up the straight though and the pair drew clear up the hill, with Might Bite struggling in the softer ground. We all want the rematch on better ground and with the potential for Presenting Percy to be thrown into the mix, next year’s race could also be topping the list once again.
Imperious in the race twelve months ago, Buveur D’Air returned to the scene of his crowning glory to try and retain the title he had so impressively won last season. It had an all-star feel, with Faugheen leading them past the tapes and setting a brisk tempo from the outset. For the 2015 Champion Hurdler, his challenge ended after the second last as he weakened through the field, with Buveur D’Air and Melon moving through. Head to head and stride to stride as they approached the last, it was far from a foregone conclusion as they touched down together after the final flight. Showing his class and tenacity, Buveur D’Air stuck his neck out under Barry Geraghty and scrambled home to retain his title in the most pulasting of circumstances.
Winning both his starts prior to arriving at the contest, Waiting Patiently looked a potential superstar as he looked for this first Grade 1 success. With his rivals including Cue Card and Top Notch, it was certainly going to need further improvement from him and he duly delivered it. Approaching the second last, the gutsy and tenacious old-timer Cue Card was still in front, but Waiting Patiently remained on the bridle alongside Frodon just a length down. Jumping alongside, he surged ahead approaching the last and despite a mistake at the fence, he drew away for a two-length success. After the extremely sad passing of his trainer Malcolm Jefferson just a few weeks prior, it just felt like it was meant to be and there was not a dry eye in the house as Brian Hughes pointed to the heavens in memoriam.
One of the most competitive handicaps of the Cheltenham Festival, the Pertemps Final once again shaped up to be an extremely hard fought contest. The list of potential winners turning for home was quite extensive in the 2018 renewal, but the eye was immediately drawn to the strong-travelling Irish pair Delta Work and Glenloe. The latter took the lead approaching the final flight, but he steadied into the hurdle and clattered his way through. Delta Work seized the moment under Davy Russell and surged to the front on the flat, keeping on gallantly to deny a resurgent Glenloe at the finish for a nose success. Pulsating from start to finish, it’s a race that had the heart pumping all the way to the line and beyond it.
Image © Racing Post/Grossick Racing Photography