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Horse Racing: 'A monster bet' 'Absolute certainty' Denman primed for biggest test.

The race

PART-OWNER Harry Findlay has described Denman as "an absolute certainty" and trainer Paul Nicholls is almost as bullish following a preparation which has gone with "never a day's bother".

It all ended in tears a year ago when the seven-year-old met his first, and only, defeat at the hands of Nicanor in the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle, and plenty are prepared to take him on again - but confidence could not be higher in his own camp.

Findlay, who has backed Denman at all rates from 10-1 downwards, bases his confidence not just on Denman's prowess, but on the strength - or otherwise - of the opposition. He describes Denman as "a monster bet", and has said he will go on backing him until he goes odds-on.

Nicholls, who also saddles Turko, points out that Denman arrives at Cheltenham with a faultless record over fences this season and has shown that he both stays the trip and handles the track. Crucially, he says Denman "looks fantastic", unlike last year, when he was not at all happy with his appearance.

The opposition does not look as weak as Findlay suggests, and with 16 opponents, eight of them from Ireland, any flaws in Denman's game will be ruthlessly exploited.

The Irish challenge is headed by Cailin Alainn, who is bidding to become the first mare to succeed since Brief Gale in 1995, and Snowy Mountain, who represents Willie Mullins, the only Irish trainer to win the SunAlliance since 1985 and successful with both Florida Pearl and Rule Supreme.

The betting suggests the pick of the domestic threats to Denman are Dom D'Orgeval and Ungaro. Dom D'Orgeval has had an unorthodox preparation, with just two low-key wins over fences since joining David Pipe, but he was a high-class hurdler for Nick Williams, and when Pipe's father Martin won the 1991 SunAlliance with Rolling Ball, he had been seen over fences even less.

Ungaro won Kempton's Feltham Chase, and no winner of that race has ever succeeded here.

Graham Dench

The contenders

Barry Simpson, racing manager to Sir Robert Ogden, owner of According To John and Ungaro

"I was delighted with the ground when I walked the track on Monday as it was much better than some reports suggested it would be. Neither of ours should be inconvenienced. Ungaro has had a great preparation and we are all delighted with the way he's progressing. He has already won a Grade 1 novice - and won it in style, too - and he's not had a hard campaign, so is fresh and treat well. He did a very good piece of work the other day, and when someone like Keith Reveley starts talking about a horse working extremely well, you have to take notice. According To John hasn't run to his true ability in his last two starts, but if it's tiring ground still, he'll have place prospects."

Ferdy Murphy, trainer of Aces Four

"He didn't jump as well as he can at Cheltenham in December, but it was horrible ground and I think that was the problem, as he's a fantastic jumper. He's had a wind operation since then and it seems to have worked brilliantly. He's a good horse, and the more it dries out the better."

Tom Mullins, trainer of Chelsea Harbour

"We messed up with him last time by holding him up in a two-and-a-half-mile race which turned into a sprint. He has to go left handed."

Paul Nicholls, trainer of Denman and Turko

See column, page 8

David Pipe, trainer of Dom D'Orgeval

"Given luck in running, I think he has got a great chance. He has only won a couple of races but the experience will have done him good. Denman is going to be a very tough nut to crack."

Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Knowhere

"On his run behind Exotic Dancer in the Paddy Power I think he has a very good chance. Exotic Dancer is fancied for the Gold Cup, and my horse ought to run well."

Michael Hourigan, trainer of Mossbank

"He hasn't run for a long time because of the bad ground, but he's very well."

Brendan Duke, trainer of Openide

"He's had a trouble-free preparation and is in fabulous form. The ground has come for him and he'll run a very big race."

Michael Cunningham, trainer of Patsy Hall

"Three miles is his trip. He has won over the course, and although the ground is drying out it shouldn't be a problem for him."

Howard Johnson, trainer of Royal Rosa

"He's had some more back treat ment since he last ran and that seems to have helped. He's wearing cheekpieces to help him concentrate."

Willie Mullins, trainer of Snowy Morning

"He's a good jumper who stays well, and while Denman will be a tough nut to crack, I rate him one of our better chances."

Charles Byrnes, trainer of Cailin Alainn

"She was none the worse for her fall the last time she came to Cheltenham and schooled very well on Friday. She stays well and goes on all types of ground. She's in great order, so we're expecting a very good effort."

Eurochancer all-clear

TRAINER Joe Fox only received confirmation that his hope, Eurochancer, was clear to travel to Cheltenham for today's Royal & SunAlliance Chase at lunchtime yesterday, with his stable having been shut down since December.

Fox has not been allowed to have a runner since Leaveittwomebob was diagnosed with Equine Infectious Anaemia disease, also known as Swamp Fever.

'There was a massive overreaction to his win at Newbury'

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 14, 2007
Words:928
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