On Saturday afternoon, Richard Johnson announced his retirement from the saddle with immediate effect at Newton Abbot with the Grand National Festival only a week away.
Johnson will hang up his breeches having never won the Aintree showpiece, but he secured his finest hour at the Festival three years ago, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the second time.
Having finished third the year before, Native River went to places higher on the podium in 2018, seeing off favourite Might Bite in a titanic duel of the ages at Prestbury Park.
Despite the sizeable field of 15, it would prove to be the front two British runners at the head of both affairs and the market itself who would contend for the biggest prize in National Hunt between them; a tussle that will go down in the history books.
King George winner Might Bite stalked Colin Tizzard’s brave gelding throughout the duration, watching his every move from a length away and Nico de Boinville appeared to have all angles covered as the pair turned for home.
Nicky Henderson’s previous Festival winner certainly captured the lead briefly, but it was to no avail as the heroic Native River fought back and won going away.
It would prove to be Johnson’s final Festival winner, with Native River finishing fourth in his last two efforts in the race, including last month.
It was his second victory in the blue ribbon event, following Looks Like Trouble’s 2000 success.
He also secured victories as a pilot in the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle and Stayers’ Hurdle, and retires as the second most decorated jump jockey of all time behind Sir AP McCoy.