'He's as good as Denman was at this stage' - Bravemansgame bolts up in Challow
It might have taken a brave man to shell out £370,000 for a point-to-point winner by an unheralded sire but that dividend is paying off for connections of Bravemansgame, who was uttered in the same breath as the mighty Denman after emulating that horse by winning the Challow Hurdle.
A big, weak baby when beaten in two bumpers last season, Bravemansgame soared to the top of the betting for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham after dismissing the promising Star Gate in style under Harry Cobden, who wasted little time nominating the son of Brave Mansonnien as his best chance for the festival in March.
Also impressed were Paddy Power and Betfair, who trimmed the five-year-old to 6-1 (from 12-1) for the festival Grade 1 in which Denman was agonisingly denied by Nicanor in 2006.
Plenty of time has passed since, but you get the feeling Paul Nicholls, celebrating his 99th victory of a fine 2020-21 season, may have found another in the mould of the popular chaser who was christened The Tank by the public, who adored the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero.
"He's got it all, hasn't he?" Nicholls said of Bravemansgame, who was providing the Somerset ace with his third win in the MansionBet-backed Grade 1 after Cornish Rebel (2003) and Denman (2006).
"Next year he'll make a super chaser and he's not unlike Denman in his physique, size and how he does things – he's probably got a bit more boot than Denman – but it's just nice to be talking about this horse in the same breath as him.
"It'd be great if he turned out as good as Denman, but he's every bit as good at this stage of his career as Denman was at the same point.
"It's hard to draw comparisons with Denman, who really was a superstar, but he's heading that way."
That assessment was music to the ears of John Dance and Bryan Drew, who have pockets deep enough to own Bravemansgame.
Dance, a stockbroker by trade, found fame on the Flat with six-time Group 1 winner Laurens, but is scaling down his equine interests.
"I needed to reduce the exposure to the things in racing that were getting to me," he explained. "If it wasn't for dreaming of days like today I'd have knocked it on the head full stop.
"It won't necessarily seduce me back in, but days like today make the frustrations worthwhile."
Property developer Drew's orange silks are now familiar in the jumps code, and were carried to victory by the David Pipe-trained Panic Attack earlier on the card.
Like Dance, he is well aware of the sport's pitfalls, but also its glorious highs.
"He looks absolutely top class now, so, touch wood, we can keep him in one piece and he can fulfil that potential," he purred of the 5-2 winner.
"My best two horses before were Un Temps Pour Tout, who won twice at the festival and also won the French Champion Hurdle, and Moon Racer, who won the Champion Bumper and was extremely talented but too fragile to fulfil his potential.
"They were both very good, but this could well be the best horse I've been involved in. He looks something very special."
That is brave talk, but far from silly.
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