Denman: ‘He could pick you up and throw you out of the box or take your arm off’ | News about horse racing

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Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

“title =” Denman clears the water jump on his way to a first victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup “class =” js-imageLoader “data-at-xn =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/ news / 2017 / 11/23/33314-medium.jpeg “data-br-n =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/23/33314-medium.jpeg “data -br-m = “https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/23/33314-large.jpeg” data-br-w = “https: //www.rp-assets .com / images /news/2017/11/23/33314-large.jpeg “data-br-xw =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/23/33314- large.jpeg ” onclick = “return false;”>

Denman clears the water jump on his way to a first victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

By Sam Hendry

Fans’ Favorites is a weekly feature in Racing Post Weekends, where we talk to those closest to racing’s most popular horses and find out why they pull in our heartstrings. This week’s topic: Denman


Excellent. Phenomenal. Careless. You can go through an entire thesaurus and still not come up with enough superlatives to describe the fantastic Dane.

A giant of jump racing – a term that can literally be used given his extraordinary size – Denman established himself as undeniably one of the best enduring chasers of the 21st century with a series of destructive victories in some of Britain and Ireland top races for owners Paul Barber and Harry Findlay and coach Paul Nicholls.

His 2008 Gold Cup triumph, which featured one of the most anticipated Cheltenham clashes of all time against defending champion, stablemate and neighbor Kauto Star, will go down in history as one of the finest displays of powerful gallop and leap of all the time.

But just as impressive as his Cheltenham achievements were his victories in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, where in 2009 he became the first horse since Arkle to become a double winner of the prestigious handicap, both times he gave a lot of weight away to the rest of the the ground. Since 1984, the Hennessy (now Ladbrokes Trophy) has only been won three times by top-weight horses, and two of those achievements belong to Denman.

“He had an outstanding record because he is an excellent horse and we will always remember him in the Hennessy weeks,” said Nicholls, the 12-time champion trainer for whom Denman was a big part of a spectacular era at Ditcheat in the middle. of -sene noughties.

“He was just a consistent horse that jumped, galloped and had a purple lap where he just seemed to win everything. He had a little problem and came back from it, which just showed his resilience and his toughness. He was amazing.

“He could pick you up and throw you out of the box or take your arm off. He was always quite aggressive and did not suffer happily from fools. If you went up to his box and half teased him, he would try you and he was always like that. Out in the field in the summer he was just like the rain, but when he trained that fitter, he became more aggressive, he seemed to stay, but he knew he was ready. “

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

“title =” Denman gallops free of rivals in 2007 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury “class =” js-imageLoader “data-at-xn =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017 / 11/23/33274-medium.jpeg “data-br-n =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/23/33274-medium.jpeg “data-br- m = “https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/23/33274-large.jpeg” data-br-w = “https://www.rp-assets.com/ images /news/2017/11/23/33274-large.jpeg “data-br-xw =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/23/33274-large.jpeg ” onclick = “return false;”>
Denman gallops free of his rivals in the 2007 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

Denman gallops free of his rivals in the 2007 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

The idea, as he came to be known, won 13 of his first 14 starts under the rules, culminating in the famous Gold Cup. Problems with an irregular heartbeat ruined his follow-up campaign, and although he would go on to become number two another three notable three times in the Gold Cup, his only subsequent victory would come via his exciting emotional second Hennessy in 2009.

“I remember training him for the first time with Paul,” recalls jockey coach Sam Thomas, the man in the saddle for six of Denman’s victories, including the Gold Cup and his first Hennessy.

“It was very exciting and did not look like anything I had experienced before. I still ride out now and have some nice horses, but Denman was on a different level. He was always very keen to move on when he was at his best. age, and from the first time I sat on him it was clear that he was very special. Now I have pictures of him everywhere in my house. “

His abilities had not been quite as obvious at first for Nicholls, who bought the horse with Barber shortly after an emphatic point-to-point debut at Liscarroll in the spring of 2005.

Nicholls says: “Paul and I both liked him when we saw him at Adrian Maguire’s, but it was more a coincidence that he really found us than the other way around, it was just a bit of luck that we were there that day. We had been to a point-to-point in Ireland and I think Paul’s horse fell in. We were on our way home and Adrian asked us to come in on the way back and look at this horse that won a point to point last week.

“We went out and looked and decided to buy him, but we never thought we were going to buy a future Gold Cup winner or anything like that, and certainly not when he started training the first year. I remember that I had a conversation with Paul and I said I think he’s pretty slow and we were considering going straight over fences with him.I thought no, we better give him a few races over obstacles just for a little experience. For the first three or four months, we were not excited because we did not know what kind of future he wanted. “

However, once it was released on the field, it did not take long to find out.

“The second time over obstacles was when we knew it [how good he could be]”, Nicholls continues.” He won the first day and was a little green and ran all over the track and almost won. The second time he ran in a much better race. He just galloped down his back and Christian [Williams] gave him two pushes and he just left.

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

“title =” Denman returns to the winner’s enclosure in Newbury under Sam Thomas “class =” js-imageLoader “data-at-xn =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/ 29/33643-medium.jpeg “data-br-n =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/29/33643-medium.jpeg “data-br-m =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/29/33643-large.jpeg “data-br-w =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news /2017/11/29/33643-large.jpeg “data-br-xw =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/11/29/33643-large.jpeg “onclick = “return false;”>
Denman returns to the winner's enclosure in Newbury under Sam Thomas

Denman returns to the winner’s enclosure in Newbury under Sam Thomas

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

Christian could not pull him up afterwards – he came in again and immediately said that this is the best horse I have ever ridden. The improvement from day one is phenomenal, and if he continues to do so, he will be a star. “

Prophetic words from the learned Welshman as Denman rose to victory in all but one of his next 12 races, a shock defeat at the Royal & SunAlliance Novice Hurdle at the 2006 festival the only mistake.

As good as he was over obstacles, Denman was always destined to hunt, and there was great anticipation when he bent over fences in Exeter on Halloween 2006. What followed was certainly a scary experience for his five rivals that day and the rest of the novice chase division as he thrashed the class 1-winning hurdles runner Penzance by ten lengths over an inadequate 2m1½f.

After a close call to future Grand National winner Don’t Push It next time, Denman then brutally swept everything in front of him, culminating in another ten-length waltz at the SunAlliance Chase in Cheltenham in March to remain undefeated over fences on way into his first appearance in open company and his first handicap start at Newbury in early December 2007.

Trabolgan’s weight-bearing victory two years earlier was the first time a topweight had won Hennessy since Burrough Hill Lad in 1984, and Denman gave at least £ 9 away to the rest of the field. A starting price of 5-1 was the longest odds he had ever faced, and it was the first time he had not been a favorite since his second overtime.

But there was no need to worry as an 11-length lap under Thomas jumped Denman to favor the Gold Cup – Kauto Star would regain that spot at the time of the race – to continue his extraordinary rise.

“Giving weight away as he was is no easy task, but he made my life simple, and to be honest, the biggest challenge was making sure he jumped off,” Thomas recalls. “He had a tendency to sometimes dig his toes into the start, but once he jumped off, it went quite smoothly from there.

“I was a very lucky jockey who was in the right place at the right time. Luckily, he was a jockey’s dream to ride, and I just had to make sure I didn’t mess it up.

“He jumped and traveled with ease, and that was what made him the superstar he was. He had such a high cruising speed, and he could maintain it, that was what made it so difficult for the other horses, who was going up against him. ”

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

“title =” Denman wins an exciting Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2008 under Sam Thomas “class =” js-imageLoader “data-at-xn =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/ 10/14/30840-medium.jpeg “data-br-n =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/10/14/30840-medium.jpeg “data-br-m = “https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/10/14/30840-large.jpeg” data-br-w = “https://www.rp-assets.com/images /news/2017/10/14/30840-large.jpeg “data-br-xw =” https://www.rp-assets.com/images/news/2017/10/14/30840-large.jpeg ” onclick = “return false;”>
Denman wins an exciting Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2008 under Sam Thomas

Denman wins an exciting Cheltenham Gold Cup in March 2008 under Sam Thomas

Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)

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