Trainer Colin Tizzard has achieved a lifelong ambition as Native River gave him the victory he has craved above everything else in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The Dorset-based trainer turned what had so far been a frustrating campaign on its head when he finally got his hands on the coveted prize, after the seven-year-old ultimately ground his rivals into submission.
Having made a winning comeback in the Denman Chase at Newbury last month, the 5-1 shot – who was third 12 months ago – ensured the blue riband would be a thorough test of stamina when sent on early by Richard Johnson.
But with Might Bite keeping him company throughout the three-and-a-quarter-mile contest (5200m) it looked like he was a sitting duck as the Nicky Henderson-trained favourite ranged up two jumps out.
But Native River rallied to hold off his rival by 4-1/2 lengths.
“He was a good horse today and the chap on him was as good as the horse,” Tizzard said.
“He was brave and the horse was brave. He kept pushing on. It was poetry.
“It was almost unreal. It is the fourth day here and the Irish have been winning everything and we thought our form isn’t as good as everyone else’s and then Richard Johnson gives that brave horse that sort of ride and it has paid dividends. It is absolutely brilliant.
“For me, the Gold Cup is everything in life.”
Having been out of luck all meeting, the win was also a welcome tonic for dual champion jockey Johnson
“He’s been a fantastic horse for me and I was lucky to pick up the ride on him,” he said.
“He’s just amazing. He jumps for fun. I was getting squeezed, but at the second-last and the last he just wanted it so much.
“Some people will know I’m not the most intelligent in the world, so keeping it simple is the best way forward for me.”