Denman remains firmly on course for a rematch with Kauto Star at Cheltenham next Friday, although part-owner Harry Findlay believes the 10-year-old has his work cut out to repeat the epic 2008 win over his stablemate.
McCoy was called up to replace Sam Thomas for this year’s renewal only for the partnership to be torn apart on their first meeting when the heavily odds-on Denman unseated his rider at the third-last fence in the Aon Chase.
Findlay said: “Today was just the second time McCoy had sat on him and it was the first time since Newbury.
“Denman jumped two hurdles, then two schooling fences and then two proper fences.
“He was good and aggressive over the first and then a little slower at the second when McCoy had to cajole him along.
“Some days you can watch him and not have him on your mind, but I would have given him nine out of 10 today.
“He was definitely keen enough when jumping, but Kauto is so ready for the race.
“He has been trained for this race all year and it will take a phenomenal performance for anything to beat Kauto Star.”
After an interrupted season throughout 2008-9 due to a heart problem, Denman appeared back to his best when again defying top weight in the Hennessy at Newbury in November.
However, Findlay is of the opinion that was not the same Denman who destroyed the Gold Cup field two years ago with his aggressive front-running style.
He added: “The day we won the Gold Cup, Tony McCoy said that the race would leave its mark and that we needed to be careful with him.
“I spoke to him this morning and he still thinks that.
“He might have won the Hennessy giving away two stone, but I don’t think it was the same Denman who won the Gold Cup. He was on fire that day.
“We are unlikely to be so aggressive this time, but we had to do it then as it was the only way of beating Kauto Star.”
Kauto Star is the 4-6 favourite with the sponsors while Denman is next best at 4-1.