“Relentless, remorseless, has pounded Kauto Star into submission. The answer is Denman.” (Cheltenham Gold Cup 2008)
This, the crowning glory of a magical steeplechasing sequence that saw the Paul Nicholls trained behemoth notch up nine consecutive victories.
It was a brutal display of equine force that year at Cheltenham as he simply ran away with the race. Denman had arrived.
From 18f to the punishing 27f of Cheltenham, from good to heavy, from handicap to Gold Cup glory. It didn’t really matter. No horse was going past Denman at that stage of his career. Not then. Not ever.
An irregular heartbeat then kept him out for 330 days and one felt he could never quite be the same again.
However, despite his Cheltenham heroics, the best was arguably yet to come. The 2009 Hennessy produced another defining moment. A weight-carrying performance to better his victory in the same race two years prior. This time, he gave lumps of weight to a classy field. The only horse within a stone pulled up. The rest might have given up such was Denman’s superiority.
It was ‘Arklesque’.
Sadly, Denman would never win again. However he retained enough ability to finish runner up twice more in the Gold Cup.
In between there was yet another majestic performance at Newbury where only the precocious brilliance of Diamond Harry and Burton Port denied him victory. That and two stone.
Then finally at Cheltenham, Denman fought out a thrilling finish with his rival Kauto Star and Long Run. The crowd erupted, urging one final nostalgic victory for either of the old guard. But alas, it was not to be.
I’ll never forget Denman returning to the frenzied adulation of the enclosure that day. A phenomenal steeplechaser, capable of lung-busting surges furlong after furlong.
My favourite, the tank, Denman.