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From promising start to weary finish, and all the glory in between

A step-by-step breakdown of Denman's glittering career

Denman (Sam Thomas) enters the winner's enclosure after the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup
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First published in November 2017 to celebrate ten years since Denman's first Hennessy Gold Cup

March 20, 2005
3m maiden point-to-point, Liscarroll
An easy start, just a five-finger exercise for a future virtuoso. On the heels of the leaders six out, he drove through to lead at the second-last and drew smartly away to win by 12 lengths.

October 23, 2005
2m5½f novice hurdle, Wincanton
Inexperience and enthusiasm made him pull for his head, but professionalism took over although he hung towards the stands after the last. Only once would he win by less than this length and a quarter.

November 17, 2005
2m5½f novice hurdle, Wincanton
Not favourite this time under a penalty, but he took the race by the throat from start to finish, needing only to be woken up on the run to the second-last before coming right away to thrash his rivals.

January 1, 2006
2m4½f Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, Cheltenham
A big step up in class but he took it all in his fearsome stride, racing on the pace with The Cool Guy before asserting at the second-last and storming clear up the hill to win by 21 lengths.

Denman in numbers

17.2 hands high
184 best Racing Post Rating (2008 Gold Cup)
182 best official rating
1,141,347 win and place prize-money (in pound sterling) earned
24 races
14 wins
4 Grade 1 wins
9 longest winning streak (October 2006 - March 2008)
3 times runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup
36 widest margin of victory in lengths

February 10, 2006
2m7f novice hurdle, Bangor
Up in trip but down several levels in class, he was sent off at 1-12 and cantered in, clear with four to jump, easy, easy. What could beat him at the festival?

March 15, 2006
2m5f Grade 1 Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle, Cheltenham
Nicanor could. He wasn't helped by the drying ground or by pulling early, and when he flattened the third-last he came under pressure for the first time in his life. Leading at the next, he was passed at the last and couldn't match Nicanor's turn of foot, going down by two and a half lengths.

October 31, 2006
2m1½f novice chase, Exeter
Dropped right down in trip for his chasing debut, the emphasis on speed didn't show him in a great light but he nevertheless dug deep and kept on for a comfortable-looking success.

November 11, 2006
2m4½f novice chase, Cheltenham
Made hard work of it, hanging left in the closing stages as was becoming a habit, but he was always holding future Grand National winner Don't Push It. A longer trip was looking mandatory now.

November 26, 2006
2m4f Grade 2 novice chase, Newbury
A more suitable test of stamina would have to wait, but this was a weak contest for the money and he had nothing to worry about after taking it up three out.

February 10, 2007
2m7½f novice chase, Newbury
A break and a stiffer test of stamina brought improvement. He shone, making all, doing it so easily, never off the bit. The winning margin of 36 lengths was the widest of his career.

Denman poses for the cameras after victory in the 2007 Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham

March 14, 2007
3m½f Grade 1 Royal & SunAlliance Chase, Cheltenham
Justified his 6-5 market position in impressive fashion. He and Aces Four essentially had the race between them with seven to jump, and when Aces Four did well to stay upright three out he was left alone. The way he drew off from his toiling rivals suggested that stamina would never be a problem. A Gold Cup horse?

December 1, 2007
3m2f Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, Newbury
If he had never won another race, this performance would have lent him greatness. Under a stopping burden of 11st 12lb, conceding upwards of 9lb to the opposition, in leg-wearying mud, on his seasonal debut, he produced the best weight-carrying performance in this prestigious handicap since Burrough Hill Lad 23 years earlier. He led eight from home and steamrollered his rivals, winning by 11 lengths, looking every bit the champion in waiting.

Denman scatters his rivals on his way to glorious victory in the 2007 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup

December 28, 2007
3m Grade 1 Lexus Chase, Leopardstown
Back in conditions company off level weights, he stamped his Gold Cup credentials when fending off Mossbank between the last two and grinding out the victory with a degree of comfort.

February 9, 2008
2m7f Grade 2 Aon Chase, Newbury
A straightforward Gold Cup prep in which he looked absolutely fireproof, shrugging off Ollie Magern and striding ominously clear from the fourth-last, eased almost to a walk on the run-in. One day this race would be named after him.

March 14, 2008
3m2½f Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham
He brushed aside the old guard with a thrilling display of power and strength. In front with a circuit to run, Sam Thomas encouraged him to put the race to bed four from home and in a matter of strides the race was over as a contest, although not as a spectacle. The winning margin was reduced to seven lengths by Kauto Star's inability to quit, but nothing could diminish the awe-inspiring authority of the winner. Unluckily, he would never be as good again.

February 7, 2009
3m Grade 2 conditions chase, Kempton
Six months after winning the Gold Cup he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation of the heart and underwent surgery. Here he was no more than a flickering shadow of his former self, trailing in 23 lengths adrift of Madison Du Berlais. Would he ever regain his form?

March 13, 2009
3m2f½f Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham
Yes. It was simply his misfortune to come up against an absolutely peak-form Kauto Star, who tore the field apart from the third-last and won by 13 lengths. He kept on gamely for second though, most of the old power still in evidence. 

April 2, 2009
3m1f Grade 2 Totesport Bowl, Aintree
He fell, for the only time. At the time, at the second-last, the race was between he and old nemesis Madison Du Berlais, but he was getting the worst of the argument and took off too soon, hit the fence coming down, came down.

November 28, 2009
3m2f Hennessy Gold Cup, Newbury
Denman deja vu. With 11st 12lb on his back once more and giving 13lb and more all round, without a pipe-opener, he turned back the challenge of stablemate What A Friend two out and battered on upliftingly from the last to win by three and a half lengths. Two years earlier, off a 13lb lower mark, he had been scarily magnificent, here he was more lovably indefatigable. It was his last win.

February 13, 2010
2m7½f Grade 2 Aon Chase, Newbury
For the second time in three starts he failed to complete, unseating new partner AP McCoy at the third-last when already looking tired and beaten, a 1-6 loser.

March 19, 2010
3m2½f Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham
In finishing a gallant runner-up again, although never looking likely to beat Imperial Commander, he showed he remained one of the best staying chasers around but that some of his prowess had gone, never to return.

April 21, 2010
3m1f Grade 1 Guinness Gold Cup, Punchestown
Looked ill at ease throughout and never made his presence felt on ground that may have been on the fast side. He plugged on for fourth, looking slow.

November 27, 2010
3m2f Hennessy Gold Cup, Newbury
Again carrying 11st 12lb, conceding upwards of 18lb all round, first time up, he ran a mighty race in defeat after looking for a fleeting moment, five out, as though he might yet roll back the years. 

Denman jumps the water en route to finishing second in the 2010 Hennessy

March 18, 2011
3m2½f Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham
Almost a carbon copy of the previous year, although a touch more of the old warrior. He, Kauto Star and Long Run jumped the second-last together, a glorious sight, but his speed was no longer there, it was only his bravery that kept him going. There was still plenty of that, enough to ensure a third, unique, runner-up spot in the race.

April 7, 2011
3m1f Grade 1 Totesport Bowl, Aintree
The oldDenman would have beaten these rivals out of sight, but this was just oldDenman. Eased when his chance had gone, he had never before finished out of the first four when completing.

Look back on the best jumps action of the year in the new edition of the Racing Post Annual. To buy click here or call 01933 304858

Denman deja vu. Two years earlier, off a 13lb lower mark, he had been scarily magnificent, here he was more lovably indefatigable. It was his last win

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