It’s over — and we know the answer. Denman proved conclusively that he, not stable-mate Kauto Star, is the best by demolishing his rival to win the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup by seven lengths.
In the end, there was no doubt — Denman’s relentless gallop proved too much for 2007 winner Kauto Star, who made a few mistakes at his fences and, although staying on at the end when Denman appeared to tire, did not once look like winning. He took second place in a photo-finish with Neptune Collonges, who provided the early pace — a Paul Nicholls-trained 1-2-3.
“It was unbelievable,” said Nicholls. “I’m proud of all three horses, but the best horse won on the day.”
Clive Smith, owner of Kauto Star and of yesterday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Master Minded, was gracious in defeat.
“He didn’t quite run his race and wasn’t really going about a mile out, but we’ll be back.”
Sam Thomas, who rode Denman, said: “I’m lost for words. What a horse!”
It was the 23-year-old’s first Cheltenham Festival winner.
Halcon Generlardais finished fourth for Robert Thornton and Alan King, but the race was all about the Nicholls horses. Not since Michael Dickinson trained the first five home in the Gold Cup in 1983 has a trainer pulled off such a feat.
Ruby Walsh, beaten on Kauto Star, had already ridden two winners earlier in the day: the Willie Mullins-trained Fiveforthree took the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle, and Celestial Halo grabbed the JCB Triumph Hurdle from favourites Franchoek and AP McCoy.
Robert Thornton picked up another winner on 9-1 shot Nenuphar Collonges in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, while Davy Russell and Ferdy Murphy teamed up to take the Coral Cup by a whisker with Naiad Du Misselot. Donald McCain’s Whiteoak was a surprise winner of the opening mares’ race under Jason Maguire.
Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full report on all the action from Cheltenham, including fantastic photographs of the equine stars on the show, on sale Thursday 20 March, ’08