Thursday 23 May 2019

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2008

The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by Totesport, featured twelve runners, three of which were trained by Paul Nicholls, and a lopsided market, in which bookmakers offered 16/1 bar the first three in the betting at the off.

The race was billed, quite rightly, as a match between the defending champion, Kauto Star, and stable companion, Denman, hitherto unbeaten over fences and a 10-length winner of Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the previous year. In fact, 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup was arguably the most anticipated since Arkle met “The Big Horse” Mill House for the first time in the 1964 renewal.

Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh, understandably started favourite at 10/11, with Denman, ridden by Sam Thomas, second favourite at 9/4 but, having tracked his other stable companion, Neptune Collonges – a largely unconsidered 25/1 chance – for most of the way, it was Denman who took the race by the scruff of the neck heading out on the second circuit.

Jumping economically, Denman gradually wound up the pace and, coming down the hill for the final time, opened up a lead of three or four lengths over his nearest pursuer, Neptune Collonges, with Kauto Star toiling back in third. By the second last, Denman was 10 lengths in front. Kauto Star ran on gamely in the closing stages to snatch second place from Neptune Collonges by a short head, but he could never make any real impression on the winner and was eventually beaten 7 lengths.

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said, “Denman was awesome. He jumped and galloped and put Kauto on the back foot really,” adding, “Your first win in a race is always the best and I’ll never forget See More Business winning in 1999, but it doesn’t get any better than saddling the one-two-three in the Gold Cup.” Winning jockey Sam Thomas was less verbose, saying simply, “I don’t know what to say. I’m lost for words again. What a horse.”

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