Denman’s unlikely defeat in the Levy Board Chase at Kempton over the weekend has turned the Cheltenham Gold Cup on its head, with many horses being nibbled at in the market, including Denman’s conqueror Madison De Berlais. Denman’s trainer, Paul Nicholls still plans to run his horse in the Gold Cup.
Denman went off as odds on favourite for Saturday’s race, which had been rescheduled from Newbury to Kempton due to the weather. It meant that Denman would be jumping over a right handed course, which is known not to suit him, however he jumped perfectly ok, but he began losing ground to Madison De Berlais from quite a way from home and eventually trailed in 23 lengths behind the winner.
Having had such a long lay off and having being diagnosed with a heart fibrillation it is little wonder that he was beaten, however, the distance he was behind Madison De Berlais was scary and it is difficult to see how he can reverse that form in the big race which is just four weeks away.
Nicholls has said that he has come out of the race in fine form, but admitted he will need to improve if he is to win the Gold Cup for a second successive year. Punters in some way should be impressed by the distance between Denman and the rest of the field. He had Albertas Run 25 lengths behind him and that horse it will be remembered ran second to Denman’s, stablemate, Kauto Star, in the King George Chase over same course and distance on Boxing Day.
Kauto Star has now been shortened in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting to around the 6-4 mark, while Denman is out to 9-2 or even at 5-1 with some bookmakers. Madison de Berlais unsurprisingly, has come in to third favourite at 8-1 and punters have been quick to take advantage.
Bookmakers also report money for horses such as Notre Pere, winner of the Welsh Grand National, Exotic Dancer has also come in for significant support as to has the Queens, Barbers Shop.
David Pipe who trains Madison De Berlais was overjoyed with the performance but admitted that Denman was probably nowhere near his best, but that did not take anything away from his horse who will line up in the Cheltenham feature with confidence.
It is possible that we have all seen the best of Denman; it could be that he peaked last year when winning the Gold Cup and even without his long lay off, it is worth considering that he would have never been able to reproduce last seasons form. If so then it will be a great loss to National Hunt and a huge disappointment to the Nicholls yard.