Tidal Bay is one of the most talented horses to grace the NH scene in recent years and I have had the pleasure of seeing this grand old chaser several times for myself at tracks around the country but he had has his own ideals about the game and on several occasions over the years has not shown the immense ability we know he posses and it wasn't until he was transferred to the Paul Nicholls stable that he has finally climbed to the upper echelons of the the NH ladder after often threatening but not quite delivering the level of performance he is capable off.
The Tidal Bay story began when sent of a unconsidered 40/1 outsider in a Wetherby Bumper back in March 2006 where he defied these what look now insulting odds to make a perfectly satisfactory debut to finish 2nd. This was followed when sent off at even bigger odds (66-1) in the ultra competitive Aintree Bumper, one of the top races of this kind of the entire season and put up a excellent performance in only his 2nd race under rules to finish a close 2nd to Pangbourne which would lead to top racehorse owner Graham Whylie purchasing this highly promising gelding.
His novice hurdles campaign during the 2006/07 season began with three easy victory's before finishing only the future duel Cheltenham Festival Witcha Lineman in his 4th outing at Cheltenham. At the festival he would run a fine race to only go down by a quarter of a length to Massini's Maguire in the grade 1 Neptune Investment Hurdle and followed this fine effort to impressively take a grade 2 novice hurdle at Aintree's Grand National meeting.
The 2007/08 season until his career best performances during 2012 was his most successful season with a almost faultless novice chasing campaign with the only blip being when making a mess of the final fence on his 4th start of the season to go down narrowly in a novice chase at Doncaster but he more than made up for this effort in his next start at The Cheltenham Festival when destroying the field by 13 lengths to take the Arkle Chase and complete a memorable season with another win with great authority in the grade 1 novice chase at Aintree on Grand National day.
His 1st run outside novice company resulted in him making it 6/7 over fences with a easy win at Carlisle which would set him up for a crack at the grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase. I was in attendance myself this day where his winning streak would end here tho as he came up against the brilliant defending Champion Chase winner Master Minded and there was no shame in finishing 2nd behind his top class rival as very few horses in recent years could have got the better of Master Minded at his best which he wasn't far of this day. Unusually for a duel grade 1 winning 2m chaser his next outing was the 3m Rowland Reyrick Handicap Chase where he would have to carry 11-12 and give lumps of weight away but ran well enough in 2nd to warrant a crack at the leading Cheltenham Gold Cup trial the Argento Chase over just 3m1f110y where he simply didn't get home in very testing conditions to finish 3rd. This would abandon any thought of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the time being so it was the Ryanair Chase he would contest at The Festival and there was no shame in finishing a staying on 3rd behind the following seasons Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander and past Champion Chase winner Voy Por Ustedes. He concluded his 2008/09 season when perhaps feeling the effects of some hard races when finishing down the field in Aintree's Melling Chase.
The 2009/10 season began with a excellent effort when only finding course specialist the popular grey Monet's Garden too good but this effort was followed by a disappointing run in Huntingdon's Peterborough Chase which would lead connection to revert him back to Hurdles for Cheltenham's Cleeve Hurdle where he powered up the hill to register his 1st success over 3m. The natural target after this would be the World Hurdle but found this company a bit hot and could only plug on up the hill to finish 7th behind the mighty Big Bucks who he would meet again at Aintree in the Liverpool Hurdle where rounded of the season finishing 4th.
Tidal Bay's 2010/11 campaign began at Wetherby where again he would do his best work at the end of the race to finish 3rd in the John Smiths Hurdle behind Fair Along which would set him up for a return to fences to contest a grade 1 chase for the 1st time in the shame of Haydock's Betfair Chase. He would again get outpaced before coming with his now familiar late charge to get within 2 lengths of the reigning Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander which would lead connections to believe he could be a Gold Cup contender himself later in the season now his stamina is assured. He warmed up for the Gold Cup in Cheltenham's Argento Chase and yet again doing all his best work at the end after being left behind earlier in the race to finish just under 2 lengths behind the following seasons Grand National winner the popular grey Neptune Collonges.
Tidal Bay's next race would be the epic renewal of The 2011 Cheltenham,Gold Cup which would be was one of the most memorable races in recent years with Kauto Star, Denman and Long Run the 1st 6yo to win the race since the great Mill House serving up a treat. Tidal Bay ran a very respectable race staying on up the hill to finish 6th behind some of the best chasers over the last 20 years.
The Grand National was chosen as his next target but he didn't get any further than the 10th when unseating his rider Brian Harding way too early to decide if he was going to play a part in the finish. This would be his final start for Howard Johnson who left the world of NH racing in disgrace but this would be a blessing in disguise as he would be transferred to the champion trainer Paul Nicholls, a expert at extracting the best out of older horses which would be evident a year later at Sandown.
After a 9 month break he made his debut for the champion trainer in a 3m handicap hurdle at Cheltenham's New Years Day meeting where under a huge weight he ran a very respectable race to finish 3rd giving in excess of 20 pounds to the runner up. Not bad for a 11 year old.
He would return to Cheltenham for a 3rd attempt at the Argento Chase where he ran a almost identical race to last years renewal staying on up the hill once again to chase home the winner Midnight Chase. This run was followed up with a very disappointing display at Newbury where he may have found things happening a bit quick in The Denman Chase where the Gold Cup winner Long Run would break the 3m track record.
He would miss the 2012 Cheltenham Festival with the end of season target the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown with a prep run at Aintree in the Liverpool Hurdle where he was badly hampered by a faller at the 8th and could only make moderate late progress to finish 4th behind the brilliant winner Big Bucks. There isn't a horse in the country who would have beaten Big Bucks this day thou to be fair.
This set him up for his end of season target at Sandown on the final day of the season which stages the parade of champions before the start of racing. I was in attendance my self this day and never experienced such foul weather at Sandown where it did not stop raining all day, in fact it rained all week in the lead up to the meeting but this would only benefit Tidal Bay where he travelled like a dream throughout never getting outpaced at any stage and creeping into the race on the final circuit to loom up coming into the home straight and saunter up the hill to win in effortless style by 15 lengths. This would rank as a career best with him carrying 11-12 and giving 20 pounds to the runner up.
The 2012/13 season began with a spin over hurdles in the John Smiths Hurdle at Wetherby and with Ruby Walsh on board he charged home to comfortably take this grade 2 contest. This would set him up for a tilt at The Hennessy Gold Cup where he would be asked to carry 11-12 and give 6 pounds to the RSA Chase winner Bob's Worth. The ground may not have been quite as soft as he would liked but still put up a mighty effort to chase home the top class winner who may well go onto Cheltenham Gold Cup glory later in the season. Ruby Walsh stated after the race that Tidal Bay would be some horse around Leopardstown and this sound advice was taken up and in a thrilling edition of The Lexus Chase Tidal Bay who looked beat jumping the last picked up and produced a storming late run to snatch the grade 1 prize from the popular Irish Chaser Flemenster and high class First Lieutenant.
The question now is it The Gold Cup or World Hurdle at The Festival and he is also being considered for The Grand National.
Perhaps if he was in the care of Paul Nicholls from day 1 then we may well by now be talking about a Gold Cup winner but even now at the age of 12 he looks at the height of his powers.