Tribute to Denman who would have turned 20 today

Gold Cup 2008 - Denman

Sadly he is not around to join in the #MeAt20 craze on Twitter but Denman’s 20th birthday is well worth celebrating.

The chestnut foaled in County Cork on April 17, 2000 grew into a colossus of the chasing game and earned the affectionate nickname “The Tank” – affectionate, that is, unless you were a rival he was running into the ground.

His strong-running, relentless style made him a formidable opponent in a staying chase and his big, strong physique meant he was built to carry weight.

Denman’s first victims were the 15 point-to-pointers he destroyed by 12 lengths and more on his debut for Adrian Maguire at Liscarroll in County Cork, after which he was sold privately to Paul Barber and Harry Findlay and moved to Paul Nicholls’ yard in Somerset.

That made him a stablemate of the outstanding Kauto Star and kick-started a rivalry that lit up the jumping game for several seasons – when did you last see racing fans wearing scarves in the colours of their favourite chaser on Cheltenham Gold Cup day?

Denman came out on top when the pair went head to head at Prestbury Park in 2008 and though the placings were reversed 12 months later that was just his second run back after a heart operation.

And the true measure of his ability, toughness and sheer will-to-win came in two victories under top-weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.

It took a top chaser to defy a BHA mark of 161 and triumph by 11 lengths in 2007 – to stride clear for an emphatic victory off 174 two years later was the stuff superheroes are made of. Or tanks.

* And here’s the first three paragraphs of an amazing tribute to Denman by Steve Dennis, which appeared in the Racing Post o June 7, 2018 

Death shall have no dominion. How could it, when Denman had gained racing immortality long ago? Death takes a moment and is gone, but a life so well lived is everlasting.

The final kindness of the needle, gently and mournfully wielded, ushered Denman from his quiet field into the Elysian Field where all the horses go, the great and the good and the only ordinary.

Now, just out of our earshot, a strong, steady voice is announcing his arrival, and from the depths of the long, sweet grass Kauto Star has pricked up his ears and is walking quickly towards his old neighbour, old rival, old friend.

Read the full Denman tribute on racingpost.com.

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