I’ve really struggled to find time for the blog over the past couple of weeks, work has gone into overdrive with the World Cup just around the corner. However, the news that Denman had sadly passed away made me find time tonight to pen something about a horse that captured my heart when I was a slightly younger racegoer.
Denman showed every single characteristic that you would hope your children show, he was strong and brave, as well as being determined and having a never say die attitude. When he was up against it, he dug even deeper to ensure he came out on top. On the big day he would not shy away, instead he would come to the fore with some of his best performances. Paul Nicholls deserves a lot of credit for that, but this was one special horse who did everything asked of him, and more sometimes.
I was at Cheltenham for his Gold Cup win, a race I had been dreaming about for months before it actually happened. The majority of my dreams ended with Ruby cruising past on Kauto Star and going up the hill to claim the Gold Cup, with Denman a brave second after making much of the running. Unfortunately for my wallet that day, Denman hadn’t received a copy of the script. Instead what we saw was a fantastic staying performance by a horse who never stopped giving. It was as though he knew the importance of the clash, and how big the stage was and he certainly didn’t disappoint. I’ve watch the race countless times since the actual day, and when you look in behind you see many top quality horses in trouble with half a circuit to go. Denman put them to the sword, and no one had an answer.
It seems funny to write this about a Gold Cup winner, but that victory was probably not his best moment. His weight carrying performance to land the Hennessy Gold Cup for a second time will probably go down as the best ever weight carrying performance in any race. With a huge weight on his back, Denman dug as deep as he ever did to fend off the challengers that day. What A Friend was in second behind him, a Grade One winner getting over a stone in weight, but Denman just kept finding more. You have to be an incredibly well handicapped horse to win the Hennessy, and it makes you wonder just what kind of mark Denman ran to that day.
It’s a decade since Denman and Kauto Star were battling it out for the crown of top staying chaser, and it will probably be another decade before we see a horse capable of standing up to those two and what they did on the track.