Nicholls team bow to the new conqueror

DENMAN’S joint-owners Harry Findlay and Paul Barber accepted defeat with dignity as the 2007 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup winner settled for the silver medal for the second year running.

Rather than events 12 months earlier, when he was only beaten by his next-door neighbour at the Paul Nicholls stable, Kauto Star, this time it was Imperial Commander who proved too much.

High-stakes punter Findlay and gentleman farmer Barber are rather different characters and are certainly going be involved in discussions over the gelding’s future.

Findlay said: “The way Denman runs, if he’s not a Grand National horse, then I’m blind. Nicholls said he couldn’t watch him run in a National but I think he looked a National horse through and through and I’d be very, very surprised if he is not in there next year. The public are so fond of him, and they would love it.”

Reflecting on a performance far removed from his prep run in the Aon Chase at Newbury, when he eventually removed his new jockey Tony McCoy, Findlay continued: “Denman’s such a tank you always feel he’ll look after himself. For about three minutes I thought he had won a Gold Cup but Imperial Commander has shown real speed and class and all I can do is take my hat off to him.

“Tony McCoy’s always such a class professional and I really wish Denman had won it for him more than anyone else.”

McCoy added: “When we came down the hill Imperial Commander was going a bit better than me. I hoped he might stop but that’s not the way it turned out.”

Barber may not be so keen on the 2011 National but added: “I don’t know whether I’ve seen a more exciting race.

“At the end of the day the best horse won by a long way today, but I’m thrilled. I’m pleased because he was jumping much better as he went on, particularly out of the softer ground. That said, one wonders whether he would jump round Aintree.

“He’ll be 11 next year and it would be good to bring him back here. I’m very proud, he’s wonderful.

“The crowd have had their money’s worth. I know Kauto Star fell and I’m very sorry about that, but it was a very good race.”

It was certainly a day of mixed emotions for Nicholls, who said: “I was delighted with Denman — he ran his heart out. Kauto Star, he was just unfortunate. He made a stupid mistake and it cost him. He was always going to do that one day, I suppose. The important thing is that they’re both OK.”

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