Denman: one of three horses to win the race twice
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
By Jack Haynes 4:30PM 6 DEC 2016
After the announcement that Hennessy have ended their 60-year association with Newbury’s feature chase, we reflect on five of the best renewals of the race.
Newbury’s feature handicap chase has changed somewhat in the past 60 years and it would be frankly bizarre to see an odds-on favourite in the race in this day and age. However, 51 years ago, the great Arkle was an odds-on shot, and well odds on at that, sent off 1-8 in the ninth renewal of the showpiece race at the Berkshire track.
Admittedly Tom Dreaper’s star chaser only faced seven rivals, although he was conceding 32lb or more in carrying 12st 7lb under Pat Taafe. However it proved no burden as the three-time Gold Cup winner notched back-to-back wins in the handicap chase.
The handicapper could do no more – he wasn’t stopping one of the finest chasers in racing history.
Burrough Hill Lad 1984
Punters enjoyed a prosperous few years in the early 1980s and market leader Burrough Hill Lad became the fifth consecutive favourite to win the race in 1984 – eight months after his Gold Cup success.
Another class act to carry top weight to victory, Burrough Hill Lad, ridden by John Francome for trainer Jenny Pitman, produced an almighty leap at the final fence to seal the deal before going on to win the King George VI Chase later that year.
RSA Chase winner Canny Danny, a four-length second, was the only runner to get within 25 lengths of Burrough Hill Lad – a clear a sign as any of his sheer dominance.
One Man 1994
The racing public become fond of a bold, exuberant grey chaser and One Man did not disappoint when defeating his older rivals for trainer Gordon Richards and rider Tony Dobbin in the mid 1990s.
One Man: cruised to victory in 1994
PICTURE: Getty Images
Owned by John Hales, the son of Remainder Man cruised to the lead four fences from the finish and from there on in the result appeared a formality – with the measure of his jumping impressing all those who were lucky enough to witness the talented chaser.
One airshot from Dobbin proved more than enough for the leading light of the North, who breezed to victory and earned a deserved pat down the neck crossing the line.
Teeton Mill 1998
Despite having four legs and a tail, the Martin Pipe-trained Eudipe, ridden by Timmy Murphy, was the proverbial sitting duck in the 1998 renewal with Norman Williamson teasing Murphy aboard another crowd favourite, and grey, Teeton Mill.
Williamson stalked his rival from the turn into the straight with abundant confidence, eventually giving Venetia Williams’ chaser some rein after three out.
Teeton Mill: another flashy grey to land the Hennessy
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Teeton Mill, another Hennessy winner to go on to King George VI success the following month, drew steadily clear in the final three furlongs and such was the ease of victory, Williamson was afforded the opportunity to wave his whip at the shrieks and cheers from the stands up the run-in.
An abiding memory of a fantastic race is rarely a single jump but Denman’s spectacular leap at the cross fence on his way to becoming only the third horse to win the Hennessy for a second time is one every racing fan will never forget.
Applying pressure to the field from the front, Denman jumped out of Ruby Walsh’s hands to clear the fifth-last fence in spectacular fashion. It was nimble. It was athletic. It was special.
Carrying 11st 12lb to victory for the second time, Denman and Walsh looked to their right between the final two fences and saw a familiar face in What A Friend. However, if there was any friend you wanted to eyeball at the end of a gruelling test of stamina and guts, the admittedly talented yet enigmatic What A Friend would be the one.
As What A Friend, steered admirably by Sam Thomas, looked awkward approaching the last fence, Denman did what he knew best, clearing it with aplomb and running on relentlessly to hold all challengers in one of the great renewals of what has, and will continue to be, a fantastically enthralling handicap chase.