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Ten of the best jumps performances in 2018

Jonathan Vine 3 Jan 2019
Faugheen's demolition job at Punchestown features on this list of top performances.

With New Years’ Day almost upon us, we take a look back at 2018 and list the top ten performances from any jumper during the calendar year.

Kempton’s Christmas Festival has come to an end for another year, meaning punters are now excitedly looking forward to the beginning of a new year. While there are plenty of things to look forward to during 2019, I think it’s important to look back on the last 12 months and celebrate some truly special performances.

We’ve taken a look back on some of the biggest events during the National Hunt racing calendar and chosen our top ten jumps victories in 2018.

Derek O'Connor and Edwulf (centre, red cap) make good progress during their Irish Gold Cup triumph.

Edwulf - Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown (4/2/18)

A story to rival that of Lazarus and Jesus Christ, Edwulf’s miraculous recovery from the brink of death was capped off at Leopardstown in February. Joseph O’Brien’s chaser had to be nursed back to life after collapsing in the National Hunt Chase at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival. Retirement understandably followed, but after kicking the doors down in his holiday home, O’Brien threw Edwulf back into the fray and he took his chance in the Irish Gold Cup.

Irish Grand National hero, Our Duke and JNWine Champion Chase winner, Outlander were expected to fight out the finish, along with Willie Mullins’ Gold Cup bridesmaid, Djakadam. Few expected 33/1 shot Edwulf to be in there pitching jumping the last, but Derek O’Connor smuggled his mount into the race with a masterful ride and the duo hung on to claim a fairytale victory.

Footpad and Ruby Walsh leap the last before cruising home in the Arkle.

Footpad – Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival (13/3/18)

There’s no doubting Footpad was the most impressive novice chaser in 2018 and his triumph in the Arkle was just one of a number of stand-out displays. What made Footpad’s triumph in the Arkle extra special, for me, was the recovery Ruby Walsh and his mount made after a shocking error along the back straight.

With Saint Calvados and Petit Mouchoir already holding a 12-length lead, Willie Mullins’ heart was in his mouth as Footpad clattered through the top of the birch five fences from home. Ruby didn’t panic, trusting he had enough horse underneath him to reel in the leaders and reel them in Footpad did, cruising into the lead rounding the bend before powering to a 15-length success.

Nico de Boinville salutes the crowd after winning the Champion Chase with Altior.

Altior - Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival (14/3/18)

Nicky Henderson’s star entered the Champion Chase searching for his third Cheltenham Festival success in a row, but Altior’s fans will have been extremely worried watching Nico De Boinville get to work on the favourite at the end of the first circuit. Douvan, who had been travelling well up until his departure, had led the field at a decent lick and Altior was the first to come off the bridle approaching the top of the hill.

Min had cantered to the front and Paul Townend started to wind his mount up. Nico De Boinville, however, managed to coax a response from the favourite and jumping the last, the result was never in doubt. Altior produced his best leap of the race at the final obstacle and there was nothing Townend and Min could do but watch Altior cruise to Queen Mother glory.

Richard Johnson celebrates after leading Native River (near) to Gold Cup glory.

Native River - Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival (16/3/18)

Heavy ground couldn’t dampen the electricity around Prestbury Park when the Gold Cup contenders hit the track in March and it was the top two British contenders who turned Cheltenham’s showpiece into a two-horse race. As the race unfolded, Might Bite and Native River established a clear lead and the stage was set for seismic showdown entering the home straight.

Richard Johnson was the first to get to work, helping Native River hold Might Bite at arm’s length. Jumping the last, Might Bite seems to be in the ascendency, but Nicky Henderson’s charge had nothing left in the tank, allowing Native River to surge clear on the run for the line and ensure Colin Tizzard would take the famous little trophy back to Dorset for the very first time.

Davy Russell and Tiger Roll (left) scale a National fence at Aintree.

Tiger Roll - Grand National at Aintree (14/4/18)

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Grand National and Tiger Roll’s display – for 95% of the race – was nothing short of imperious. Gordon Elliott’s three-time Cheltenham Festival winner travelled powerfully throughout, proving his doubters wrong with some flying leaps. Davy Russell remained motionless as his mount jumped the last and Tiger Roll established a clear lead approaching the elbow.

As the marathon trip began to take its toll, Danny Mullins spied an opportunity, steadily closing the gap onboard Pleasant Company. Just when it seemed the leader had nothing left to give, the line came to save Tiger Roll and Davy Russell’s celebrations – along with a fantastic speech in the aftermath – will live long in the memory.

Faugheen destorying Penhill at Punchestown.

Faugheen - Champion Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival (26/4/18)

The jumps racing world rejoiced when “The Machine” returned from injury with a stunning victory in the 2017 Morgiana Hurdle. Results tailed off after that and, after three poor performances over two miles, Willie Mullins bit the bullet at Punchestown, upping Faugheen to three miles for the first time in four-and-a-half-years.

Stayers’ Hurdle champion, Penhill lined up in opposition, along with recent Aintree champion, Identity Thief. What followed was one of the stand-out staying hurdling performances in recent memory, as Faugheen rolled back the years to put his rivals to the sword and prove there was plenty of life left in the old dog yet.

Road To Respect - JNWine Champion Chase at Down Royal (3/11/18)

Victory in the Lexus Chase ensured Road To Respect entered the 2018 Gold Cup as one of Ireland’s main challengers. Defeat at Cheltenham was followed by another at Punchestown, meaning Noel Meade’s charge entered the JNWine on his reappearance with a couple of question marks next to his name.

Sean Flanagan held his favourite mount up near the rear of the field and when he asked Road To Respect to flex his muscles, Meade’s charge made a mockery of the race. By the time the finishing line arrived, Road To Respect was miles clear of any of his Down Royal rivals, establishing his position at the head of the Irish staying chasing ranks.

Jack Kennedy riding Apples Jade clear as they land a hat-trick of Hatton's Grace wins.

Apple's Jade - Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Punchestown (2/12/18)

Like Road To Respect, Apple’s Jade entered the new season with a little something to prove, after suffering surprise defeats at Cheltenham and Punchestown. Gordon Elliott’s mare looked back on form when winning the Lismullen Hurdle on her reappearance and she entered the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle searching for a historic hat-trick.

Willie Mullins tried to set the race up for one of his closers, asking Wicklow Brave to stretch Apple’s Jade out early doors. Jack Kennedy’s mount followed Wicklow Brave’s every move and, as the pace-setter started to struggle, Apple’s Jade bolted. A couple of fluid leaps down the home straight ensured Apple’s Jade earned her spot in the record books and you’d be hard pushed to recall a more eye-catching performance from any Grade One hurdler.

Bryony Frost and Frodon (right) jump the last on their way to victory in the Caspian Caviar.

Frodon - Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham (15/12/18)

It seemed the days were gone when you’d get Grade One horses carrying top-weight in handicaps, with greats like Denman and Arkle the most notable examples. In recent times, Native River’s Welsh National victory ensured he joined that elite group, but in December, Frodon added his name to the list.

Paul Nicholls threw his chaser into the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, where Frodon had to give his closest rival a staggering 12 pounds at the weights. Bryony Frost, as she often does, took everything in her stride and Frodon rose to the almighty challenger. Nicholls charge travelled brilliant, jumped superbly under 11-12 and stayed strong on the run to the line to claim a famous victory.

Clan Des Obeaux (right) surges clear of Thistlecrack to win the King George.

Clan Des Obeaux - King George VI Chase at Kempton (26/12/18)

In what was described as the most open King George in recent times, few people saw Paul Nicholls’ second-string is a genuine champion. Might Bite, Waiting Patiently and Politologue were the punter’s chosen trio in the build-up, but it was former Kempton king, Thistlecrack who turned for home looking like the most likely.

Tom Scudamore must have thought he had the race at his mercy when Native River and Might Bite failed to produce a challenge. Harry Cobden and Clan Des Obeaux, however, were having none of it. Nicholls’ six-year-old jumped and travelled with composure beyond his years, taking control of the contest at the final jump before powering home to hand the Ditcheat maestro an incredible tenth triumph in Kempton’s Boxing Day extravaganza.

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Ten of the best jumps performances in 2018

With New Years’ Day almost upon us, we take a look back at 2018 and list the top ten performances from any jumper during the calendar year.

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