Madison Du Berlais cashed in on the fall of Denman to claim his third major prize of the season in a sombre renewal of the totesport Bowl at Aintree.
Worries about Denman’s well-being after his exit at the second-last proved wide of the mark and he returned with only a cut to his leg, but the race was marred by the subsequent death of runner-up Exotic Dancer.
Following an interrupted preparation this season, Denman went into the Gold Cup with a solitary lacklustre run under his belt, but exceeded trainer Paul Nicholls’ expectations by chasing home stablemate Kauto Star.
His pleasing homework following that effort encouraged connections to test him around the sharp Liverpool circuit, and despite not travelling with his usual fluency the even-money favourite was laying it down to Madison Du Berlais when he crashed out of contention.
Jockey Sam Thomas was adamant he would have won, but Nicholls was just glad he had returned to the stables safely.
Nicholls, speaking two hours after the race, said: “It was quite a deep cut and he got a good smack on his elbow, but we X-rayed it and it was fine.
“He’ll have a good summer out at grass and then come back next autumn for a proper campaign.
“We knew this track wouldn’t suit him but he was in the right place at the right time, and would have galloped right to the line.”
Thomas added: “He would have won – he just stepped at the fence and I don’t know why.”
For Hennessy winner Madison Du Berlais, the race marked a return to form after the eight-year-old finished down the field in the totesport-sponsored Gold Cup.
Trainer David Pipe, who also won the race 12 months ago with Our Vic, said: “We’ll discuss Punchestown but he has had a long season, and he’ll be back for more next year.”
Jonjo O’Neill’s Exotic Dancer landed the Bowl two years ago, having long lived in the shadow of Kauto Star, and ran his usual honest race to finish second under Tony McCoy.
He collapsed and died half an hour after crossing the winning line.
McCoy, who partnered Exotic Dancer in 17 of his 29 races, added: “That is the saddest thing about horseracing, when things like that happen.
“I had some great days with him – we won a Lexus, a Paddy Power and a Betfair Bowl.
“He also ran good races in the Gold Cup.
“Horses like him are very hard to replace, both as a racehorse and a character, and someone who will always turn up on the big day for you.
“It is a big blow to his owner, Robert Ogden, and everyone in the stable.”