Tidal Bay saves best form until last

Grand National-winning combination of Nicholls and Jacob prove their mastery again in Gold Cup

sandown

That business about form and class is not a truism for nothing, as Paul Nicholls is perfectly aware. Here yesterday that old recidivist Tidal Bay consented to put his best hoof forward to take the jump season's finale, the bet365 Gold Cup, and crown a seventh consecutive championship season for the Somerset-based trainer.

Tidal Bay, twice a Grade 1 winner in his youth but not, before yesterday, successful at any level for more than two years, was given a ride of tact and silk by Daryl Jacob to take the marathon chase in rain-sodden, testing conditions. But the triumph had been masterminded by Nicholls late last summer, when the 11-year-old gelding joined his team at Ditcheat.

Nicholls was sent the horse after his former trainer Howard Johnson was warned off and owner Graham Wylie reassigned his string. "I asked him in particular if I could have this one," he said. "I knew he had a lot of talent and that there was probably another major prize in him, and I fancied the challenge."

Tidal Bay, top-weight yesterday, warmed up for the test in a hurdle race two weeks ago at Aintree, where Nicholls and Jacob had shown their touch with another veteran, the Grand National hero Neptune Collonges. "That put him just right physically," added Nicholls, "but he's the sort of horse that everything has to go right for in running too. And it did today; he had the ground that slowed it all up and he wasable to get into a rhythm with his jumping.

"I knew he'd stay – he's always finished his races off well, but he doesn't like it when things go a bit quick for him and he gets put under pressure. And a class horse like him can win under a big weight."

Jacob, on a confidence roll after his National win, let Tidal Bay lope round the first circuit before easing smoothly through the field second time round as Roalco de Farges took charge. He jumped to the lead at the last and passed the post 15 lengths clear with his ears pricked, hardly having known he'd been in a race.

"I had plenty left going down the back for the last time," said Jacob, "and it was just a matter of holding on to him. I got a great tow off Dickie[Johnson, on Roalco de Farges] and at the last just gave mine one kick and away he flew."

Behind Tidal Bay the three-mile, five-furlong contest was something of a war of attrition, with nearly half the field pulled up and wide margins between the finishers. And though seeing horses finishing tired is never particularly edifying, that is all they are, tired, just like any athlete who has just completed a gruelling contest. The argument that horses have no choice is as specious as it is trite; of course they don't, but racing is their raison d'etre and, as anyone who has ever been properly fit knows, running, or jumping, or whatever when trained for it is a pleasure.

Most horses, when introduced to and properly prepared for man's games, are perfectly happy to join in; those that are not can and do let it be known. And though anthropomorphism can be unwise, those who suggest that racing is not a positive experience for a thoroughbred should have been present at yesterday's parade of the season's champions.

Seasoned veterans like Kauto Star, Big Buck's and Neptune Collonges, and young thrusters like Sprinter Sacre strutted (and in Kauto's case bounced and bucked with such joie de vivre that owner Clive Smith wondered tongue-in-cheek if there was a late entry stage to the afternoon's feature) with what was easy to read as pride in their steps as they soaked up adulation from an adoring audience.

For the callow three-year-olds who lined up for the Classic Trial on one of the few mixed programmes in the domestic calendar, such hero worship is in the future, but the winner Imperial Monarch and Joseph O'Brien certainly deserved the applause that welcomed them back, the rider for the canny wide course he plotted, sacrificing ground but finding the least heavy going, and the colt, the11-8 favourite, for the determination he showed to claw back an eight-length deficit from the turn in.

The son of Galileo is now judged a 20-1 chance to go one better in the Derby than his half-brother The Great Gatsby, who was narrowly beaten nine years ago. His Aidan O'Brien stablemate Camelot heads the market at both Epsom and for Saturday's 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Suggested Topics
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week