Beforehand, the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup had looked to revolve around Might Bite, trained by Nicky Henderson, and Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard. However, late support for Our Duke, trained by Jessica Harrington – who had won the race, at her first attempt, with Sizing John in 2017 – forced his price into 9/2, between Might Bite at 4/1 and Native River at 5/1. Nevertheless, the race was dominated by Native River and Might Bite, was widely predicted, and backers of Our Duke were resigned to their fate soon after halfway. The former Irish Grand National winner was never travelling after mistakes at the eleventh and thirteenth fences and gradually lost his position before being pulled up after the fourth-last fence, at the top of the hill.
Meanwhile, Native River made virtually all the running, but was pressed by Might Bite throughout and, together, they turned the race into an extreme test of stamina, especially on the prevailing soft going. In what effectively turned into a match between the leaders, Might Bite took a narrow lead between the final two fences, but Native River regained the advantage at the final obstacle and galloped on resolutely, ultimately outstaying his rival in the final hundred yards or so, to win by 4½ lengths. Might Bite finished a highly creditable second, especially on going that favoured the winner, with outsider Anibale Fly, trained by Tony Martin, emerging as ‘best of the rest’ in third place, a further 4 lengths away.
Winning jockey Richard Johnson fell foul of the stewards, for a breach of the whip rules, which cost him £6,550 – the equivalent of 1.8% of the winning prize money – and a seven-day riding ban. Nevertheless, Native River delivered a dominant performance and, Might Bite aside, none of his rivals made any real impact. Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins – still trying to win his first Cheltenham Gold Cup – saddled four runners, but Killultagh Vic, Bachasson and Total Recall all failed to finish and Djakadam, the outsider of the quartet at 25/1, could only manage fifth, beaten over 20 lengths.