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Paul Nicholls: Denman was a true great and we can't wait to see him again

Denman was a true great of his generation says Paul Nicholls

"And you look back at his Hennessy defeat of What A Friend, who he gave 22lb and a 3½ length beating, and it was an astonishing weight-carrying performance, underlined when What A Friend won the Lexus next time out."

Paul Nicholls reflects on the career of Denman, from the moment he first set eyes on him to when he nearly repeated his superb weight-carrying performance in the Hennessey...

It was great to read that Denman is set to parade before "his race" on Betfair Super Saturday at Newbury on February 9th, and I have no doubt that plenty of his fans will come along on the day to just to see him.

But remember there will be plenty of other current stars on show at Newbury too, and at this stage we are aiming Silviniaco Conti at the Betfair Denman Chase.

Let's just hope that this bloody weather takes a turn for the better pretty quickly - we have had months of rain, and now the snow has arrived - or else we will be in danger of losing all our meaningful pre-Cheltenham trials.

It was dreadful here this morning and it was inevitable that Taunton would have to abandon. I was gutted for them. They had worked hard with Betfair to stage their richest-ever race day, and they were set to attract high-class fields worthy of the superb prize money.

Hopefully, something can be done to reschedule the meeting, as it's a superbly-run course - and it was good to see Taunton's groundstaff win an award this week - run by top people.

Anyway, back to Denman. It's obviously great news that he is able to turn up on the day of the race named in his honour, as he couldn't last year due to him having box rest after his tendon injury.

But, by all accounts, he is really enjoying his hunting with Charlotte Alexander, who keeps us fully updated with his progress.

I remember clearly the first time myself and Paul Barber went to see him at Adrian Maguire's.

Immediately, as Adrian brought him out of his box, I said: "I'll have him."

And then Paul chimed in: "No, you won't. I will!"

So while it is fair to say that he made an instant impression on us, he didn't immediately show his future potential at home or on the racetrack. He never showed a great deal in the mornings and when he won at Wincanton first time out, it was only an ok performance.

But when he went back to the same course about a fortnight later and won easily, Christian Williams got off and said he was the best horse he had ever ridden. So that got our attention.

What he achieved subsequently is clearly remarkable, especially considering he wasn't easy to train and had his well-documented heart problems, too.

Winning the Gold Cup is the pinnacle of any horse's career, so his 2008 Cheltenham victory stands out for me, even though in a way it wasn't ideal that he did so beating two stablemates in Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges.

But that was clearly awesome form, and he gave his all that day. And that was the hallmark of the horse, his toughness and class.

And you look back at his Hennessy defeat of What A Friend, who he gave 22lb and a 3½ length beating, and it was an astonishing weight-carrying performance, underlined when What A Friend won the Lexus next time out.

And when he went back to try and win a third Hennessy in 2010, he again ran his heart out when third off a mark of 182.

It said everything you need to know about the horse, and the affection the public held him in, that he got a bigger roar after the race than the winner.

And I am sure he will get a similar reception on February 9th.

If it wasn't for a certain Kauto Star, he would have been the star of his generation. But he remains a true great.


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18 January 2013

Paul Nicholls

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