Paul Nicholls’ second-season chaser, who bounded to victory in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, will be making his seasonal reappearance in the Newbury showpiece.
The seven-year-old, who has only lost once in 10 races under Rules, will bid to emulate Trabolgan in 2005 who also shouldered top-weight to victory, the first since Burrough Hill Lad in 1984 to do so.
Trabolgan had also won the same Cheltenham event on his previous start.
“To win a race as competitive as the Hennessy Gold Cup – carrying 11st 12lb and off a mark of 161 – Denman would have to put in a performance that in most seasons would be up there with winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup,” said totesport spokesman Damian Walker.
“It is not surprising then that his price for both races is almost identical - 4-1 to land the Hennessy Gold Cup and 9-2 to do the business at Cheltenham next March.
“Saturday’s race will go a long way to telling us if Denman is the real deal and a worthy challenger to Kauto Star and Exotic Dancer.”
Denman will be ridden by man of the moment Sam Thomas, and fresh from his successes on Kauto Star and Mr Pointment last weekend, he is just hoping his golden spell continues.
Thomas said: “I’m really looking forward to him and he worked well at Exeter last week.
“After the weekend that’s just gone it’s just amazing (to have this ride),” he told At The Races.
“He’s well and although it’s his first run of the season, there is no reason why he can’t go and run his race.”
Denman’s main market rival is the David Pipe-trained Abragante, denied a run recently in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but an impressive winner of the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton.
Owned by David Johnson, the six-year-old is improving at a rate of knots but will be without the assistance of usual partner Timmy Murphy due to suspension.
Johnson had hoped to call on the services of Paul Carberry due to his similarity to Murphy in the saddle, but the Irishman is likely to be required by his boss Noel Meade to ride at Newcastle.
“I’ve not found a jockey yet,” said Johnson.
“The trainer is still trying for me. It’s a shame that Paul Carberry can’t ride him but that’s life.
“It looks like he’ll be at Newcastle but that is fair enough, he’s got his commitments. I’ve got my own jockey so I understand that.
“At the moment I think David is just finding out who will be riding where.”
The Irish challenge is strong as Slim Pickings, Snowy Morning, Mossbank, Point Barrow and French Accordion could all run.
New Alco, Alderburn, Sir Rembrandt, Character Building and Dream Alliance are other notable possibles.
Despite not having run since the Scottish National in April, John Quinn is quietly confident that Character Building can do himself justice.
“If he gets in he’ll run. He’ll have a chance of getting in,” said Quinn.
“I haven’t got a jockey booked as everything is up in the air and if he does get in he is going to have 10st.
“We have a shortlist of two or three that we are thinking about.
“He’s ready. You have to be ready going for a race like that.”
Strong Flow, who won the race in 2003 for Paul Nicholls, was not originally in the list of confirmations released by Weatherbys but that was later rectified and he is still a possible for new trainer Dessie Hughes.
Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup
Ladbrokes bet: 4-1 Denman, 6-1 Abragante, New Alco, 7-1 Snowy Morning, 10-1 Patsy Hall, 12-1 Mossbank, Dom D’Orgeval, Character Building, 14-1 Knowhere, 16-1 Alderburn, Hard Act To Follow, Juveigneur, Sir Rembrandt, 20-1 bar.
totesport bet: 4-1 Denman, 5-1 Abragante, 6-1 New Alco, 8-1 Snowy Morning, 10-1 Mossbank, 12-1 Patsy Hall, 14-1 Character Building, Dom D’Orgeval, 16-1 Juveigneur, Sir Rembrandt, 20-1 Alderburn, Bible Lord, Dream Alliance, Knowhere, 25-1 bar.
William Hill: 4-1 Denman, 5-1 Abragante, 6-1 New Alco, 8-1 Snowy Morning, 10-1 Mossbank, 12-1 Dom D’Orgeval, 14-1 Character Building, Patsy Hall, 16-1 Bible Lord, Dream Alliance, Juveigneur, Knowhere, 20-1 bar.