Hopes high that Denman will make swift recovery
DENMAN'S prospects of making a full and swift recovery after treatment for his heart condition - news of which was revealed exclusively in Friday's Racing Post - have been assessed at 90 per cent by an equine cardiac expert.
While connections of the Gold Cup winner will be taking nothing for granted next week, when Denman is treated for an irregular heartbeat, they will be buoyed by the positive comments of equine cardiology specialist Lesley Young.
She said: "It sounds like Denman may be suffering atrial fibrillation, as did Sir Alex Ferguson and Tony Blair.
"It's the commonest cardiovascular-related reason for under-performing horses. Denman isn't the first, and won't be the last.
"The success rate after treatment is around 90 per cent. A significant percentage of horses return to their previous form, and maintain that form."
Denman, according to co-owner Paul Barber, could return to training as early as Monday week, seven days after he travels to Newmarket for treatment, but Coral suspended their Gold Cup markets on Friday, while the reigning champion drifted out to 11-8 (from 4-5) with sponsors Totesport.
Trainer Paul Nicholls reasserted his view on Friday that the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury on November 29 would come too soon for Denman, and that he would more likely be out around Christmas time, all being well.
Denman will travel to Rossdales in Newmarket on Monday, and Young said: "The most recent treatment for this is available only at Rossdales. An electric shock is given to get the heart rhythm back to where it needs to be. It cancels out all the nonsense and returns the heart beat to normal.
"It's like when you have a couple of coffees. You get a small number of irregular heartbeats. When horses suffers that, the condition stays there, though there's nothing fundamentally wrong with them.
"With an essentially healthy horse, you'd be very optimistic that, once treated, the heart will stay fixed.
"The vast majority of horses who get this are just unlucky. Often, it is the big-hearted, most talented National Hunt horses who are affected. They are a risk waiting to happen."
She added: "Occasionally the condition flips back. That tends to happen sooner rather than later after treatment. Usually, once it's fixed, it stays fixed, and the horse is back to normal.
"It normally takes a week to get over the treatment, and a horse can return to fast work within a month as long as everything goes smoothly."
Barber said: "Paul Nicholls said to me he was not going well. It was his decision to get someone in to look at Denman. Harry [Findlay] and myselfwatched him school in the small outdoor arena, and he didn't perform very well.
"Denman will have his heart stopped, and then restarted. Tony Blair had it done, as do lots of humans and horses. All being well, it will be a matterof days before Denman returns to training.
"He goes to Newmarket on Monday and by next Monday he could be back in training. It's not a long job, literally days, and he'll have the best available care."
Headded: "Paul [Nicholls] has seen these things before, as have I. Things can go wrong occasionally and you never know, so we just hope and pray he will be fine. We've got a 90 per cent chance he will be."
Findlay, whose mother Margaret co-owns Denman, said: "Vibes from the two Pauls last week were pretty negative. I was at the yard last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. I got the impression from the two Pauls something wasn't right.
"There was a train of thought he'd got a wind problem. If he'd needed a wind op, that would have been even worse. So to be honest we'll settle for what we have got.
"Denman is a one-off. He is a public horse, and the main thing is he is not in any pain, and it's not life-threatening. You've got to be philosophical."