Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Proud Barber hails 'wonderful' Denman

Jockey Sam Thomas on Denman after winning the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Jockey Sam Thomas on Denman after winning the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Photo: Getty Images

Owner Paul Barber hailed Denman as "one of the greats" after injury forced connections to call time on the legendary staying chaser's stellar career.

The Paul Nicholls-trained 11-year-old was embarking upon what was likely to be his final campaign, which was due to begin in the Lexus Chase, a race he won four years ago, at Leopardstown on December 28.

But once a tendon injury was discovered after a routine piece of work earlier this week, Barber and Nicholls had no hesitation in retiring the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup and dual Hennessy Gold Cup winner.

"He's been one of the greats," said Barber.

"Two great races stick out for me, obviously his Gold Cup win of 2008, but also his second win in the Hennessy - I thought that was a huge performance.

"We've decided to retire him as there was no way I was ever going to take any chances with him.

"He's given us so much pleasure - he's been a wonderful horse for us.

"I've had a lot of good horses and I would never talk horses like See More Business (1999 Gold Cup winner) down, but Denman is with them."

Denman enjoyed a successful career in novice hurdles but marked himself as a real star when switching to fences and destroying his rivals by upwards of 10 lengths in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the 2007 Cheltenham Festival.

Nicholls' inmate won his first Hennessy nine months later, after which he secured victory in the Lexus Chase in Ireland on his next start.

But his finest hour came in March 2008 when he revelled in a showdown with stablemate Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Denman galloping to glory by seven lengths under Sam Thomas - although his old rival reversed that form in 2009.

Thomas said: "It's a sad day, but I am very glad that his injury happened on the gallops and not on the racecourse, because it could have been much worse.

"The 2008 Gold Cup was the best day of my life - he was a great horse to be associated with.

"He doesn't owe anyone anything and he's very close to my heart.

"He was a horse who would always try his best every time.

"He's going to have a long and happy retirement."

Denman turned in a truly memorable weight-carrying performance to win a second Hennessy in November 2009, competing off a 13lb higher mark than in 2007 and giving nearly a stone and more to each of his rivals.

Jockey Ruby Walsh, who was on board at Newbury and rode Denman to six other victories, said: "It's better happening at 11 rising 12 than five rising six.

"He was a wonderful horse and a lucky horse for the owners.

"He was very well trained, had some wonderful days and it was a pleasure to have ridden him on occasion."

His 2009 Hennessy success was to be Denman's final victory, although he chased home Imperial Commander in the 2010 Gold Cup and filled the same position behind Long Run last March.

"It's a relatively small injury and if he was a younger horse he'd definitely be back next season," explained Nicholls.

"But it's better it happens at home than blow a tendon on a racecourse.

"He owes nobody nothing, he's been a fantastic horse and he'll have the best of everything now.

"Having come back from a major heart problem, a lot of horses wouldn't have done that.

"He astounded me after the problem as he ran moderately at Kempton and then finished second in the Gold Cup. If it hadn't have been for that, he might well have won another Gold Cup.

"He never showed you much at home. He's been to Cheltenham for the last four Gold Cups with Kauto Star so perhaps we'll have to bring him as Kauto's mate this time.

"He's been a great horse and you can't say enough about him."

Press Association

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