HENNESSY Gold Cups are not normally won by horses shouldering nearly 12 stone. However, Denman is no normal horse and has carried top weight to victory twice in three years.
I opposed him 12 months ago, as I had done in 2007, and was left gobsmacked on both occasions. It wasn't just the winning, it was the ruthlessly destructive manner he went about it.
Both times he put his opposition to the sword with a lung bursting display of power, speed and accurate jumping. However, at the age of 10 his best years are surely behind him and he cannot be seen as value at 4/1 with Paddy Power.
So, if Denman isn't going to win, who is the most likely to pick up the pieces? Well, the two I like are the hugely exciting WEIRD AL and last year's Grand National fourth BIG FELLA THANKS.
There is every chance that the Ian Williams-trained Weird Al has the potential to climb to the very top of the steeplechasing tree.
If all goes to plan for the seven-year-old this campaign, he is more than likely to take his place in the field against Denman in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. If that does happen, the pair will race off level weights – a far cry from tomorrow's almost two stone swing.
In short, I don't fancy Denman's chances of being able to concede the weight to such a hugely progressive rival who showed his well being by dead heating with recent Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Little Josh on his seasonal bow at Carlisle. If there is still some 6/1 available in the morning, then that should be snapped up.
I also cannot resist having an each-way saver on Ferdy Murphy's Big Fella Thanks at a whopping 14/1. He jumps, stays and hails from a stable just beginning to hit top gear.
It’s a shame that Newcastle’s meeting tomorrow has been abandoned as I really fancied Peddlers Cross to beat Binocular in the Stan James Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Hopefully the race will be rescheduled in the next week as it promises to be one to savour.
At least we’ll see another fantastic hurdler tomorrow when the irrepressible Big Buck’s returns in the Sportingbet.com Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury (2.30pm).
He is an outstanding horse, but 10 of his 11 wins in this country have been with Ruby Walsh in the saddle.
He will be a very short price, so it may be worth a small lay on Betdaq with man of the moment Noel Fehily riding him for the first time.
Nicky Henderson’s horses are running really well and he has a very interesting contender in tomorrow’s opener at 12.25pm. SECRET WORLD won the Wood Ditton for Jeremy Noseda on his first ever start and has been off the track since June 2008.
He has reportedly been working very well and could turn out to be one of the yard’s best novice hurdlers.
It’s Gentlemen’s Day at Newbury today and RIVALISTE can give champion trainer Paul Nicholls another winner in the Sportingbet.com Handicap Chase (2.45pm).
The five-year-old won on this day last year and ran a cracker behind the well-handicapped Dave’s Dream at Cheltenham last time.
Cheltenham may seem a long way off, but I’ve just signed up to play the Cheltenham Festival Centenary Golf Day at Celtic Manor on Monday 14th March.
It will be fantastic to play on this year’s Ryder Cup course and Fairway to Furlong and Your Golf Travel are inviting racegoers to enjoy some golf and receive tips from a host of racing experts. Log-on to www.fairwaytofurlong.com for more details.
RIVALISTE 2.45pm Newbury, today
SECRET WORLD 12.25pm Newbury, tomorrow
WEIRD AL 3.05pm Newbury, tomorrow
BIG FELLA THANKS e/w 3.05pm Newbury, tomorrow