With the passing of one of the true greats of National Hunt racing, Ruby Walsh sat down with Paddy Power News to talk about Denman who he enjoyed numerous big race success on.
The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was one of the most popular racehorses ever to grace the sport and for seven of Denman’s 14 career wins, Ruby was in the saddle.
He tells us his best memories of the horse known as ‘The Tank’.
Paddy Power News: Of Denman’s great wins, what was his best ever performance?
Ruby: “He was an incredible athlete and his second Hennessy Gold Cup win in 2009 was the best weight carrying performance by a horse that I’ve ever been involved in. He was probably a handicap certainty when he won his first Hennessy off a mark of 161, but to win his second off a mark of 174, which was 13lbs higher than when he won it the first time, that was incredible. As good as his Gold Cup win was, what he did in that second Hennessy Gold Cup was amazing.”
PPN: When did you first hear of Denman?
Ruby: “Paul was on about him, but I didn’t ride him much early in his career as I was riding at different meetings the days he was running. Christian Williams rode him in the earlier days. The first time I rode him was in the re-arranged Challow Hurdle at Cheltenham but well before then, Paul had been saying that he had this huge big horse belonging to Mr Barber and Harry Findlay that he really liked. Paul kept saying to me ‘this is some horse to gallop’ and he was dead right.”
PPN: What was so special about Denman?
Ruby: “For such a big horse, he had such movement of his feet in front of a jump – it was incredible. He was a brilliant horse to ride over a fence and he was just an unbelievable athlete. He had a brilliant career and he was a very good novice hurdler, but chasing was always going to be his forte. He excelled over fences. He was unbeaten as a novice over them and he went unbeaten for a long time over fences. He bolted up in the RSA and his performance in the Hennessy with Sam Thomas was spectacular. I won a Lexus on him and then he beat Kauto Star in a Gold Cup. He was just an unbelievable racehorse and an incredible athlete.”
PPN: Ten years on from his 2008 Gold Cup win over Kauto Star, are you still surprised?
Ruby: “I wasn’t surprised that Denman beat Kauto that day. They were two phenomenal horses to come along at the same time and they had a great rivalry. What Denman did in that year’s Gold Cup was unbelievable and the gallop he went was incredible. To have so many horses beaten so early that day was unbelievable. He was a wonderful horse.”
PPN: How do you rate his two Hennessy Gold Cup wins to this day?
Ruby: “The time he won his first Hennessy with Sam on board, I had a dislocated shoulder and I watched the race from a bookies in Wexford. Visually that day it was very impressive, but when you look at it, his second Hennessy win, when he won it off a much higher mark and gave so much weight to a Grade 1 horse in What A Friend, technically that was a better performance. To give What A Friend 22lbs, who won a Lexus and a Betfair Bowl on his next two starts, was just incredible. To me, that was his greatest ever performance.”