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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

True grit: four of the most exciting jumps races this season

Might Bite (nearside) and Whisper locked together at the finish of the RSA Chase at Cheltenham last month
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After Wednesday's thrilling finish to the Punchestown Gold Cup we polled Twitter users to find out what they deemed the best finish of the 2016-17 jump season.  

Betfred Becher Chase
Vieux Lion Rouge: 5%
The 494-yard run from the last fence to the finish on Aintree's Grand National course can prove as punishing as the fences themselves and the Becher Chase in December produced one of the best examples.

Highland Lodge, trying to repeat his win of 12 months earlier, had gone off in front, was still in the lead at the last and, having reached the elbow holding a three-length advantage, appeared to have pulled it off.

Then he began to tread water and with every shortening stride his four pursuers were catching him. Jockey Henry Brooke tried everything to rescue the situation, finding just enough to hold off The Last Samuri, Ucello Conti and One For Arthur.

But Vieux Lion Rouge was staying on better and got up on the post to win by a short head.

OLBG Mares' Hurdle
Apple's Jade: 14%
With Apple's Jade having been one of the 60 Gigginstown House Stud horses removed from Willie Mullins there was added significance to her clash with two of her former stablemates.

Apple's Jade went into the race having beaten last year's mares' heroine Vroum Vroum Mag at Fairyhouse in December – that rival's only defeat in 13 starts – but she had been beaten in February by Limini, who had won the Mares' Novices' Hurdle the previous year.

Their decider at Cheltenham did not disappoint as Apple's Jade, who had been in front from the fifth hurdle, was tackled on both sides by her two foes from the second-last.

Vroum Vroum Mag took a narrow lead at the last, where Limini made a mistake, but Apple's Jade fought back in a contest determined by a length and a half and a nose.

RSA Chase
Might Bite: 30%
Mercurial might become the adjective most connected to Might Bite, who confirmed a reputation for the unpredictable by almost throwing away victory in the most dramatic finish of the Cheltenham Festival.

The undoubted talent had fallen at the last when holding a clear lead in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase in December and held what looked another unassailable advantage when he cleared the second-last in the RSA.

But after a mistake at the next he suddenly hung violently left and gave up so much ground that stablemate Whisper was soon alongside and even edging in front with 130 yards to go.

With a loose horse in front to follow, Might Bite rallied and got back up to snatch the prize by a nose.

Coral Punchestown Gold Cup
Sizing John: 51%
This clash between two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners and a two-time Gold Cup runner-up produced a classic with all three contributing to an epic encounter.

With Coneygree, the 2015 Gold Cup hero, shrugging off an injury absence to serve it up to his opponents, Sizing John and Djakadam were taken to their limits by a determined adversary.

Coneygree took them to the second-last where his momentum faltered when he made a mistake and pecked on landing, but just as Djakadam edged in front he, too, was almost on his knees landing over the last.

He was still in front halfway up the run-in until joined by Sizing John, who mastered his opponent only in the very last stride.

Their decider at Cheltenham did not disappoint as Apple's Jade, who had been in front from the fifth hurdle, was tackled on both sides by her two foes
E.W. Terms
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