The Punter: Denman can still out-shine Kauto Star in Gold Cup
Let's not make a crisis out of a minor disaster where Denman and Tony McCoy are concerned.
Rule the pair out of Gold Cup contention at your peril and the price of 7-2 to outdo stablemate Kauto Star and the rest, remains value.
Kauto Star is odds-on across the boards to successfully defend his crown, with Ladbrokes shortest at 4-7 and William Hill offering 4-5.
Denman is 5-4 to win the race ‘without Kauto’ and that’s worth an interest. He will be a better horse come Cheltenham.
Of course, there will be those who will want to make sure that Denman lines up before placing a bet but I don’t think there will be any worries on that score or on who will ride him.
Some critics will feel justifed in their claims that McCoy, because of his forceful nature, is not the partner for this brute of a horse who has his own way of doing things.
First of all, it would not have mattered a jot who was on board last Saturday. The pilot would have suffered the same fate as Tony once Denman made that first mistake at the fourth last.
Prior to that, the partnership was working like a dream with Denman taking his fences without a problem.
But something happened between five and four fences out and even McCoy was aware that not all was right as the horse did not stroll away from the plodder Niche Market.
“The mistake at the fourth-last cost him his chance and it's as simple as that,” said trainer Paul Nicholls.
“He landed awkwardly, went out to the left, and the race was over then.
“There are a couple of things to remember — he's a month off being anywhere near as good as he was in the Hennessy, both mentally and physically.
“And it was a trial, not the real thing.
“I think you'd have found that if he'd jumped the fourth-last, he would have picked up and gone on and won the race.
“Going back to a championship race will suit him as Saturday was a muddling race, and Kauto only won a head from L'Ami in this before winning the Gold Cup.
“Five weeks down the line Denman can be a different horse and knowing him I wouldn't write him off.”
Denman likes to do things his way and something happened on Saturday to leave him unwilling to go about his business. He was far from 100 per cent fit and maybe there is a physical problem which has not surfaced yet. Don’t forget he has had heart trouble in the past and it’s not unknown for him to put in a bad race or two.
Winner of the race in 2008, he put up an unbelievable display last year to chase home Kauto when a couple of weeks beforehand he was given no chance of running. That’s the nature of the beast. One thing for sure, even those who oppose him will be looking anxiously to see how he is travelling come March 19.
Incidentally, Denman traded at 1-33 on Betfair before his first major mistake while Niche Market traded at 1-50 before being pipped on the line by Tricky Trickster.