The sad news about Denman’s passing was given to racing fans on Wednesday morning and I am sure many people who read the news quickly remembered a fond memory they have of the wonderful staying chaser. We were told that Denman had been unwell for a while, and with his best interests at heart, he was put to sleep to end his suffering. It was a dignified end to a life that brought so many people joy and happiness, and he’s a racehorse you will never be forgotten.
I was lucky enough to be a huge racing fan back when Paul Nicholls was dominating the sport with his two superstars Denman and Kauto Star. We had the flashy brilliance of Kauto Star against the workmanlike Denman, two very different styles but with similar results.
I was at Cheltenham the day Denman won his Gold Cup, a race I will never forget. I had looked forward to their clash for months before the race and dreamt about it many times. I’ll be honest and say that the majority of my dreams ended with Ruby Walsh cruising upsides Denman and past him, steering Kauto Star to victory. However, the actual race was far from that. Looking behind Denman at the quality horses he had off the bridle with half a mile left to go, it really was an incredible performance.
Perhaps the best part of that story though is that the Gold Cup was probably not Denman’s finest hour. That is reserved for his second win in the Hennessy Gold Cup, under a huge weight. It showed what willing attitude he possessed. He was at the end of a tough race, with 11st on his back and yet he still found more to fend off his rivals. What A Friend, a Grade One winner was behind him, getting over a stone in weight from him and he still wasn’t able to pass the horse we had affectionately nicknamed “The Tank”.
Just as we are drawn to warm people because of their likeable character, as a nation of racing lovers we were drawn to Denman in a similar way. He was, and will always be the benchmark when it comes to horses who show extreme courage and determination, just when the going gets tough. His character and heart will never be forgotten, and he will go down in the record books as a Gold Cup winner, and probably the most impressive Hennessy Gold Cup winner of all time when he won the race for the second time.
We have been blessed with many great chasers over the years, and Denman deserves mentioning with the very best of them, he was a warrior on the course and one that brought great pleasure to many people.