Denman: highly unlikely to take in Warwick race on way to Aon Chase bidPICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER
Denman '99 per cent certain' to return in Aon
PAUL NICHOLLS on Thursday all but ruled out running Denman over hurdles at Warwick next weekend when describing the Gold Cup hero as "99 per cent certain" to reappear in Newbury's Aon Chase on February 7.
After deciding against running Denman over hurdles at Wincanton on Boxing Day, Nicholls had toyed with the idea of giving the unbeaten chaser a first outing of the season in a Pertemps series qualifier at Warwick in eight days' time.
However, the trainer on Thursday confirmed that the option had now been effectively dismissed, saying: "It's 99 per cent certain that Denman will go straight for the Aon Chase. The race is only five weeks away and I don't see the point in running him over hurdles beforehand.
"Wincanton would have given us more time, but if we go to Warwick, it would be only three weeks before the Aon, and that would be stupid.
"Assuming Paul [Barber] and Harry [Findlay] agree, it will be straight to Newbury."
Asked whether Denman - who has not raced since undergoing treatment for an irregular heartbeat - might be given an entry in the Grand National, Nicholls added: "We'll have to talk about it, but if Paul and Harry want to enter him, I'll enter him."
Nicholls and Findlay have also expressed enthusiasm for making an audacious assault on France's premier jumps race, the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, at Auteuil in May.