Nicholls leads Denman tributes
Denman, winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup and two Hennessy Gold Cups, was retired yesterday with a tendon injury.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said: "It's a relatively small injury and if he was a younger horse he'd definitely be back. But it's better it happens at home than on a racecourse. He owes nobody anything, he's been a fantastic horse."
Nicholls went on to say that the Cork-bred gelding will stay in his box next to Kauto Star for the rest of the season, by which time his great mate will probably also have finished racing.
The highlight of Denman's career came in March 2008 when he beat his much-vaunted stablemate and then reigning champion by seven lengths in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
In one of racing's greatest head-to-heads, Denman put up one of the finest displays of end-to-end galloping ever seen to dethrone Kauto.
The giant liver-chestnut chaser, nicknamed 'The Tank', would go on to recover from a heart operation, finish second in the next three Gold Cups and, on one of racing's great days, give a stone or more to his rivals to win a second Hennessy Gold Cup in 2009.
A former winning point-to-pointer, he can expect a long retirement with owner Paul Barber.
Meanwhile, at Cheltenham yesterday, the cross-country course provided another dose of heavy drama for the wrong reason when seven riders ended up taking the wrong course with one obstacle remaining.
The blame for the incident was laid firmly at the door of amateur rider Jacqui Coward, who was leading the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase aboard Wedger Pardy as the field turned onto the racecourse proper in the home straight but went wider and ended up on the old chase track.
Coward admitted responsibility and was handed a 12-day ban, as was Michael Hourigan's jockey Adrian Heskin on A New Story, which was eventually brought down in a nasty incident.
Richard Johnson was attempting to change track on Balthazar King but his mount crashed into the rails and fell, while Emmet Mullins (Uncle Junior), Andrew Glassonbury (Double Dizzy), Patrick Mullins (Scotsirish) and Ken Whelan (De Danu) also missed the turn.
This left the JP McManus veteran Garde Champetre in front to complete his sixth and by far his most unlikely victory over the course. Trainer Enda Bolger, a master of the discipline, suddenly found himself with a one-two as Chamirey finished runner-up. Coward's dates will be notified, while Heskin must sit out December 26-January 6.
"There's no way I'd have won otherwise, maybe I'd have been fourth at best, but I saw them taking the wrong route," said winning jockey JT McNamara. "My horse knows the way better than me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)