The Tank of a Lifetime - Denman

A Tribute to the late, great, Denman

A tribute to Denman with Architect Tips

Any Horse Racing Fan adored Denman who was known for running his rivals into submission, keeping up a mighty gallop and proving why he will always be remembered as the “Tank”. A wonderful, phenomenal racehorse who was an absolute beast with tremendous guts and determination. He was a beautiful jumper and always put 110% into every race. This is my tribute to “the tank Denman”.

What a fantastic horse Denman was, a dual winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup off top weight 11-12. He ran in four Cheltenham Gold Cup’s, winning one of those and finishing runner-up in the other three. In my opinion, that is just as good as winning two or three Cheltenham Gold Cup’s but this horse always came alive at Cheltenham and is worth being remembered as one of the all time greatest National Hunt racehorses.

Denman started his career in a point-to-point back in 2004 ridden by Colman Sweeney and trained by Adrian Maguire and he was sent off 7/4 favourite against a huge field but won so impressively by 12 lengths. Owner Paul Barber and Trainer Paul Nicholls didn’t waste anytime, clearly they felt there something special about this horse and was bought to the yard down in Somerset to start off a new career under National Hunt rules.

Novice Hurdles 2005/2006 – The start of “The Tank” under NH rules.

Now trained by Paul Nicholls, Denman started his career under National Hunt rules with two novice hurdle wins at Wincanton and was then 5/2 favourite for the Grade 1 Challow Novice Hurdle at Sandown against a strong field but won by 21 lengths impressively under stable jockey at the time, Ruby Walsh.

Denman remained unbeaten with an easy win at Bangor over 3m before having his sights set at the Cheltenham Festival the Royal and Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle 2006 Grade 1, where he was sent off 11/10 favourite despite facing a strong field. He ran very keenly and was out sprinted up the hill by a horse called Nicanor but battled on strongly. Jockey Ruby Walsh blamed himself for the loss as he said he should have made more use of his stamina.

Novice Chasing 2006/2007 – Developing into a high-class horse.

Denman was always thought of as a high-class chaser in the making and was immediately switched to fences by connections, and won his first four novice chases by a combined total of 59 lengths. The only danger in those races was Grand National winner Don’t Push It, who made him fight all the way up the hill at Cheltenham but Denman was always holding on and ground out the victory, proving why he’s a battler as well as a sweet enough traveller in his races.

Two seasons in a row, Denman was sent off a short priced favourite at the Cheltenham Festival, this time in the Grade 1 Royal and Sun Alliance Novice Chase. Denman jumped superbly and put the whole field under pressure at the top of the hill and took up the running four fences from home, Denman was in no danger as he stormed 10 lengths clear to win in grand style and remain unbeaten over fences. It was a breathtaking performance from this beast of a horse, under rider Ruby Walsh. Bookmakers immediately installed Denman as 4/1 second favourite for 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup behind stable star Kauto Star, the defending champion.

2007/2008 – “The Tank” in a league of his own.

Denman’s finest season, he carried an unbeaten record over fences, starting off in The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, possibly one of the hardest races of the season. Paul Nicholls was unable to give Denman a preparation run in the build up to the race. Denman gave at least a stone to his rivals and was running off a mark 161 in such a gruelling test that can hurt horses. He was re-united with Sam Thomas, who had ridden Denman to victory a year earlier at this track. Ruby Walsh was unavailable due to injury two weeks earlier.

He was sent off 6/1 second favourite, Denman tracked the leaders and once again jumped beautifully. From the water jump half way though the contest, Sam Thomas sent Denman on to the front and from then on, it was a one horse race. Sam Thomas looked around for dangers on the home bend and he couldn’t quite believe how well he was travelling and he powered away to win by 12 lengths like a proper top-class stayer he was becoming. Sam Thomas was terrific on board and the runner-up Dream Alliance was in receipt 18 lbs at the weights. Soon after that demolition job, Denman was cut to 7/4jf for the Cheltenham Gold Cup alongside his stable star Kauto Star.

Denman was then sent to Leopardstown for the Christmas Festival in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase and won impressively under Ruby Walsh, beating a high-class field including two Grade 1 winners and then won by 20 lengths in the Aon Chase at Newbury. Denman was still unbeaten over fences and was ready for the biggest test of his chasing career, against the mighty Kauto Star.

2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup – Denman vs Kauto Star

At this moment, Paul Nicholls stable jockey Ruby Walsh had chosen to stay loyal to Kauto Star and try to defend his title despite having a troubled preparation. Sam Thomas was booked to ride Denman. However, both were reported to be 100% ready to collide in the race of the season. The whole country couldn’t decide who was going to lift the prize.

Denman took a drift to 9/4 whereas Kauto Star was well backed into 10/11 favourite. The race was off, Denman tracked leader Neptune Collonges in 2nd and Kauto Star was held up in 4th place at the time. At the halfway stage, Denman took up the running and began to increase the pace, jumping boldly and putting the others under serious pressure. At the top of the hill, Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh became under pressure and Ruby drew the whip for the first time and the distress signals started to show, whereas Sam Thomas and Denman were motoring down the hill and the crowd began to roar this big galloping machine on, to hopefully remain unbeaten and defeat his stablemate. Denman was 10 lengths clear on the home bend and Sam Thomas for the first time used the whip and started to drive Denman along.

He jumped the second last fence well, Kauto Star was closing the gap, but made another mistake. Denman needed one more big leap, the steam was flowing out of his nose and he produced another fine leap when Sam Thomas asked the question. Denman kept galloping all the way up the hill and won by 7 lengths from Kauto Star. An all time great performance and this proved why he was known as “The Tank”, as he demolished the opposition with relentless galloping and a fine old fashioned jumping technique. Denman was still unbeaten over fences and now 9/9 victories!

Watch the race here

2008/2009 – Denman’s heart problem

23rd September 2008, the day had arrived that Denman needed serious treatment for an irregular heartbeat. Luckily, the treatment was successful and Denman resumed training back at Paul Nicholls yard. Denman reappeared at Kempton on his first start since his Cheltenham Gold Cup win and suffering from heart problems. Denman started odds-on favourite but finished a lacklustre 2nd behind Madison Du Berlais. Many people thought he wasn’t the same horse as he was before having is heart problems, and that was true but very sad unfortunately. However, Denman wasn’t seen until Cheltenham when he was going to try and retain his Cheltenham Gold Cup title in March.

Denman ran his heart out, serving it up to Kauto Star down the hill and rounding the final bend but he still didn’t look the same horse he was which was understandable. However, Denman battled on to finish a 13 length 2nd in the 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Connections and jockey Sam Thomas were all pleased considering what the horse had been through, and I was so proud of Denman for throwing everything into such a deep renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he finished better then anyone expected.

Denman was then taken to Aintree for the Totesport Bowl Chase and while he was under serious pressure rounding the home bend with three left to jump under now regular rider Sam Thomas, Denman was still battling away with Madison Du Berlais. Commentator Jim McGrath at that time commenting “Denman is still there he’s doing this all on heart”. A fitting lin for the moment, it shook me with adrenaline that this once unbeatable chaser who suffered a near-death escape, was scrapping away in these competitive races. He jumped the third last well upsides the eventual winner but Sam Thomas asked Denman for a big one two out, and Denman crashed to the ground which was awful to see as this top-class horse fell for the first time in his career. Now serious question marks hung over him to prove that he still retained some of his awesome ability. He wasn’t seen for the rest of that season.

2008/2009 – Could Denman recapture his old ability.

The return of Denman arrived, November 28th 2009. Could he regain his heroics of his 2007 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup win? He was ridden by Ruby Walsh this time and was carrying top weight 11-12 again but this time came into the race off a much more questioned mark than the previous season. However, Denman duly obliged winning from stablemate What a Friend (ridden by Sam Thomas) receiving 22lbs but showed his old spark, battling on after looking the unlikely winner jumping the last. He became only the second dual Hennessy Gold Cup winner, the other being ARKLE. What a racehorse Denman was considering the problems this horse had been through.

However, Denman’s preparation for the Cheltenham Gold Cup took a huge hit at Newbury on the 13th of February, as Denman looked in full control under Champion Jockey Tony McCoy jumping well and was sent off 1/6 favourite. Denman was 3 lengths clear and going strongly when he made a horrendous mistake four fences out and was lucky to survive the mistake as he gave many lengths away and was given time to recover by Tony McCoy but as Denman closed the gap down to three out, he made another serious blunder, this time throwing jockey Tony McCoy to the floor who had no chance of staying on board.

Anyway, Tony McCoy was booked to ride Denman again, this time in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Ruby Walsh staying loyal to Kauto Star again. Denman was odds 4/1 and again ran his heart out. Tony McCoy making full use of his stamina and kicked for home early on but was only headed coming down to the last fence, despite jumping it well he got outrun by Imperial Commander but again lost nothing in defeat and was 2nd again in the Gold Cup for the second year running having won it in 2008.

2010/2011 – The end of an era for “The Tank” Denman

Denman tried to make history once again on November 27th 2010. To become the first horse to win three Hennessy Gold Cup’s. However, the odds were massively stacked against Denman, who yet again had to shoulder 11 stone 12 pounds top weight. Denman was reunited with Sam Thomas and was kept prominent throughout the race but on the home straight as much as Denman was trying to fight off Diamond Harry, the younger horse passed him and Denman was eventually run out of it for 2nd but battled away to hold onto 3rd. It was a fantastic performance, considering Denman was conceding nearly 2 stone to the first and second! As they carried only 10 stone. Paul Nicholls kept Denman fresh until the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2011 in March where he would try and regain the prize since winning it in 2008.

Denman was given a wind operation after the Hennessy Gold Cup as connections said they thought Denman wasn’t finishing his races as well as should have been expected. Paul Nicholls had Denman spot on for the race taking no risks at any stage.

I remember, the day had come for the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and Denman drifted to a massive 9/1, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as I thought he was well overpriced despite his rising age and the ground quicker than ideal. Surpringly, Sam Thomas held Denman up further off the pace but gave Denman another great ride and the partnership jumped to the lead at the third last fence and went head to head with stable and rival star Kauto Star but the younger horse Long Run claimed him at the last fence. However, Denman ran another cracker to finish 2nd yet again for the third year in a row after winning the prize in 2008.

Denman went back to the Totesport Bowl in April, this time ridden by Ruby Walsh and the effects from all the monster efforts for many years took its toll and it was time to call it a day once his chance had gone. Ruby Walsh was kind to the horse and let him finish in his own time, eventually 5th of 6 runners. It was the end of an era as this proved to be Denmans last race due to suffering a leg injury.

The Tank – A fans favourite

This horse Denman, will always be in our hearts as a favourite for any Horse Racing Fan, Punters, Connections, Jockeys, you name it. Everyone adored this horse and it was such a shame the heart problems happened as Denman was unbeatable up until that point as he was unbeaten over fences and galloped everything into submission. He still managed to win and place in two more Hennessy Gold Cup’s and was runner-up three more times in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I don’t think any other horse could ever achieve that given the problems he encountered.

Denman loved Cheltenham and every year he would put his heart and soul on the line to give it his best shot over and over again. That’s what makes Denman so special. I am privileged to have witnessed Denman’s 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup win as I was there that day and it was one of the best days at a course I can remember! His form at Cheltenham read – 2111222. Denman adored the course and will always be remembered as a National Hunt giant who equalled the great Arkle when winning the Hennessy Gold Cup twice and nearly making history to win it three times. This relentless galloping, monster of a horse career came to end but he went out all guns blazing as a top-class horse that will never be forgotten.

The Tank of a Lifetime Denman.

I hope you enjoyed my Tribute to Denman. Do you have any thoughts on the horse? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Architect Tips.

The passing of a titan

It is with great sadness that Denman passed away on 5 June 2018. Racing Post have a few words from Paul Nicholls.

RIP Denman.

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