Denman’s new jockey Tony McCoy cannot wait to take on Kauto Star in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 19.
McCoy received the call-up to partner the brilliant chaser as Ruby Walsh, Paul Nicholls’ first-choice rider, has remained loyal to stablemate and reigning champion Kauto Star.
The 14-times champion jockey has yet to ride Denman, but will be at the helm for the Aon Chase at Newbury next Saturday before renewing acquaintance at Cheltenham.
“It’s great to get the ride on a horse that’s realistically capable of beating Kauto Star, not that there are any flaws in Kauto Star. If there is any chink in him on Gold Cup day, then Denman can find that out,” said McCoy.
“Every jockey wants to be on the best horse in the best race of the year.
“He’s won two Hennessys and a Gold Cup and is a powerful horse,” the jockey told Sky Sports News.
“I always thought for a long time, especially after last year’s Gold Cup, that Kauto Star had the edge.
“But then what Denman did in the Hennessy really made me sit up and think again – but then you look at the King George when Kauto Star annihilated the field there.
“They are two horses who are going to put on an exceptional show.
“Hopefully Denman will come out on top.”
McCoy, who secured 3,000 jumps winners last February, claimed the Gold Cup in 1997 aboard the Noel Chance-trained Mr Mulligan.
The nearest he came last decade was when Exotic Dancer finished second to Kauto Star three years ago.
Paul Barber, Denman’s part-owner along with Harry Findlay told the Daily Telegraph: “In fairness to Paul Nicholls, we had to lay the ghost.
“I’m sure Ruby would have wanted another four weeks to decide, but we have reached our decision – McCoy rides.”
Denman has only ever been ridden under Nicholls’ tutelage by Walsh, Christian Williams and Sam Thomas.
Thomas did the steering when the popular chestnut won the 2008 Gold Cup, defeating the Walsh-ridden Kauto Star by seven lengths, but was also on board when he fell at Aintree last spring.
Barber feels the recruitment of McCoy will bolster the chances of Denman wresting away the Gold Cup from Kauto Star, who last year became the first horse in history to regain the Cheltenham showpiece.
He said: “We know that to be taking on Ruby on Kauto Star, we need to have a jockey who is at least his equal.
“We wouldn’t want a situation where we were theoretically giving away several pounds.
“You can’t do that if you want to win a Gold Cup.”
Walsh is unsure he has made the right decision in electing to ride Kauto Star.
He told the Irish Examiner: “The reason for having to make such an early choice came when Denman’s owners were anxious that whoever rode their horse at Newbury would also be aboard at Cheltenham.
“The reasoning was that they simply want Tony to get a feel of Denman at Newbury.
“That’s obviously fair to everyone involved, although I have to admit I would love to be able to sit on it for another couple of weeks.
“There are still several pieces of the jigsaw which have to fall into place.
“Denman’s performance at Newbury is going to be crucial and, in an ideal world, I’d have wanted to wait until after that race.
“Anyway, what’s done is done and, as long as we both remain sound, Kauto and I will be seeking a third Gold Cup in five weeks and six days’ time.
“But I’m long enough in this game to know that so much can change between now and then.
“Tony and I and Kauto and Denman have to arrive in one piece before all of this falls into place.
“It was a very difficult decision and I have no idea if I’ve got it right.”