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National Hunt legend Denman has been put down “painlessly” at home at the age of 18.

The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner had had a “fantastic” life since his retirement from the racecourse in 2011 but had started to go downhill, his former trainer Paul Nicholls said, so the decision was made to put him down as “we did not want to see him suffer”.

Denman won 14 of his 24 starts under Rules and earned more than £1m, but “mere statistics cannot possibly do him justice”, Paul said.

“Denman was known affectionately to punters and race goers as ‘The Tank’ which I always felt was a fitting description,” he told Betfair. “He was a magic horse who had a tremendous following because of the wholehearted way he went about his racing.

“He was tough, hardy and willing, wasn’t the easiest to train and would bite your hand off in his box given half a chance.

“He came along at the right time and was one of our superstars during a golden era for Team Ditcheat.”

Paul praised Denman’s “never say die” attitude, and cited the showdown between him and his stablemate Kauto Star in the 2008 Gold Cup as a “promoter’s dream”.

“I feel so privileged to have trained the pair of them as they were two of the best chasers ever seen on a racecourse,” he said.

After his racing career, Denman went to the yard of Charlotte Alexander, who retrained him to enjoy hunting and team chasing, until he was retired fully to live at owner Paul Barber’s Ditcheat farm last year.

Denman

“RIP you gorgeous horse,” said Charlotte. “A horse who loved life and was as brave as a lion. Blessed in having the most wonderful owner in PK Barber.

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“I was the luckiest girl to have had the honour of looking after The Tank in his active retirement.”

Paul added on social media: “Denman thank you for all the memories. You were pure gold. Rest in peace big fella.”

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