The sight of a chaser in flight is something purely majestic and is one of the main reasons why National Hunt racing is such a spectacle to watch. Our final poll on our look back of the 2017/18 National Hunt season is ‘chaser of the campaign’ and there have been many candidates. We managed to narrow it down to four and we asked out Twitter followers who they thought had the best season, with the results down below! Our penultimate poll looked back on the top hurdlers of the campaign and that can be viewed on site now!
Argeuably the story of the season, Tiger Roll bounced back to form in 2018 and captured two massive races within the spaces of a month. Not the biggest of horses, what he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in heart and determination, returning to the Festival in 2018 in the Cross Country Chase. Jumping boldy and always travelling supremely well, he took over approaching five out and would refuse to give up the lead thereafter, winning by two lengths. After such a tough race, you had to wonder what he’d have left as he arrived at Aintree a month later for the Grand National. The answer was more than enough, taking over in the nation’s favourite race at two out and clinging on to a diminishing lead late on to win by a head. You will struggle to find a more heartwarming story from this season than this tough little horse.
Third in the 2017 Gold Cup after a very good preparation, the same couldn’t be said for his second attempt at capturing national hunt’s biggest prize. Not seen until February 2018 after suffering a ligament problem, he would return with a Grade 2 win at Newbury. Jumping extremely well and always travelling the best, it was obvious that he was back at his glorious best and he lined up second favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup one month later. Making virtually all, he was ridden along approaching two out and when joined by Might Bite at the fence, he looked certain to be overtaken. Not to be denied, Richard Johnson and his partner dug deep and he pulled clear on the run-in to score by four lengths. Gutsy and tenacious, Native River is toughness personified.
If you could use one word to describe Footpad over fences thus far, you’d struggle to get away from ‘impressive’. Unbeaten in five starts and the winner of four Grade 1 races, he’s shaped like a monster over the larger obstacles and his demolition jobs at Cheltenham and Punchestown were quite simply memorizing to watch. He jumps with such precision, barely touching a twig at every fence and the way he quickens clear is quite frankly frightening. The best two-mile novice chaser by quite some margin, the battle everyone wants to see is him going up against Altior and that would be quite the show.
Enigmatic is the word that usually goes alongside Might Bite, winner of seven of his eleven chasing starts and this season confirmed just how talented he really is. A winner on return at Sandown, he was sent off a warm order in the King George at Kempton and he duly delivered with a workmanlike performance. It would be the softer surface that would prove his undoing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, outstayed late on by a very game Native River. He would bounce back in no uncertain terms at Aintree though, winning the Betway Bowl in brilliant fashion by seven lengths, capping off a stellar season. Surely next year’s Gold Cup will be the target for connections once more, with better ground giving him an excellent chance of seeing the trip out.
Photo © Racing Post/Edward Whitaker