It is difficult to believe, even when there is little National Hunt racing taking place right now that so many horse racing punters are taking up the odds of 7/1 on Denman to win the Grand National. It seems almost crazy that betting on a horse who has spent the season so far recovering from a fibrillating heart and who has yet to make an appearance.
The media has been full of stories recently about the connections of Denman, including champion trainer, Paul Nicholls announcing that Denman will defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown in March and on the assumption that he comes out of that race in good form, then he will go on to carry top weight in the National three weeks later. The moment the announcement was made, Bookmakers across the board slashed the odds of Denman winning the Grand Nation from 16/1 to as short as 7/1 with the best price currently 8/1 and bookies report that punters are continuing to snap up those odds while Stan James are the only bookmaker currently brave enough to offer odds (14/1) that he can achieve the double. His price to retain the Gold Cup has remained a 7/4 chance.
Without a run so far this season, it seems amazing that the connections should have such faith and confidence and be prepared to run the horse in both major races. Surely if they really want to win the National then it would be far more sensible to miss the Gold Cup. The National in cash terms is worth twice that of the Gold Cup and Denman has already won the latter, but the prestige of winning such an elusive double is obviously too much of an allure.
Golden Miller, way back in 1934 was the only horse ever to achieve the double, but there has been some notable efforts by others since. The most recent being Master Oats, who won the Gold Cup in the Cheltenham mud in 1995, but by the time the National came round the ground had turned against him and he was unable to find the stamina or speed to master the extra mile and a half at Aintree; finished a credible 7th place.
Denman's racing style suggests that he puts in everything in every race, giving himself a hard race despite winning. He is due to reappear on February 7th in the Aon Chase at Newbury, a race he won last year. He will then have just a month to prepare for the Gold Cup and then it's a mere three weeks to Aintree. With the best will in the world, it is difficult to see him successfully coping with such a congested schedule in top quality fields, following heart surgery, however, if anyone is good enough it could well be Denman.
On the plus side of it all is that should Denman run and win both races, he would become a true legend, possibly even ahead of the great Arkle. The British public are all too often concerned with sports stars from other fields to appreciate the true magnitude of an equine great like Denman, but should he achieve the unthinkable and win both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National, he is sure to be one of the most heard names of 2009 and certain to take number one position in Racing's Hall of Fame.