Tidal Bay saves best form until last

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


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
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable