Owner Paul Barber has revealed Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Denman has spent the last five months in a veterinary hospital fighting for his life after contracting a potentially fatal infection.
The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding beat stable companion Kauto Star in one of the most highly-anticipated Cheltenham Gold Cups in history in 2008 and was then runner-up to his great rival 12 months later.
He was also second in the following two runnings of the blue riband event before being retired late in 2011 after suffering a tendon injury.
The 13-year-old had been enjoying his retirement at Charlotte Alexander’s yard near Cheltenham, where he has been a team chaser and hunter, until being struck down by illness earlier this year.
While Barber admits it was “touch and go” for the horse affectionately known as ’Tank’ during his racing days, he now hopes his pride and joy is over the worst.
Barber told BBC Somerset: “He’s not been particularly well and I’ve had him in Newmarket Veterinary Centre for five months.
“He’s now come back to Charlotte Alexander, I was up to see him the other day and he is making headway.
“He’s got a horrible piece of swelling round his back fetlock joint, which is going down every week Charlotte tells me. I can only pray and hope that he’ll make a full recovery.
“On a hind fetlock joint he got an infection in the bone. Once we’d cured the bone problem, he then had a problem with his blood. That took him another couple of months to get over.
“I can only hope for everybody that loves Denman he’ll make it to the other end.
“It was a very worrying affair. The veterinary hospital at Newmarket told me it was going to be touch and go.
“He’s improving every day. When I went to see him the other day we had to have him in a cage so he can’t gallop anywhere or do anything, but now he’s out of the cage.
“I’d be very disappointed if he doesn’t make a full recovery. I’m sure he’s going to be back loving life again.”