Ruby Walsh pinpointed Denman’s 2009 Hennessy Gold Cup as the best performance of his career following the star chaser’s death at the age of 18 on Tuesday.
While Denman famously topped fellow Paul Nicholls inmate Kauto Star in a spectacular face-off in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Walsh believes his Newbury win the following year was the standout moment of his 24-race career.
Walsh was in the plate that day as Denman dished out a three-and-a-half-length beating to stablemate and subsequent dual Grade One winner What A Friend, to whom he was conceding 22lb.
He told Paddy Power News: “He was an incredible athlete and his second Hennessy Gold Cup win in 2009 was the best weight-carrying performance by a horse that I’ve ever been involved in.
“He was probably a handicap certainty when he won his first Hennessy off a mark of 161, but to win his second off a mark of 174, which was 13lb higher than when he won it the first time, that was incredible.
“As good as his Gold Cup win was, what he did in that second Hennessy Gold Cup, off that mark, was amazing.
“To give What A Friend 22lb, who won a Lexus and a Betfair Bowl on his next two starts, was just incredible. To me, that was his greatest ever performance.”
Sam Thomas partnered Denman to his Gold Cup success, with Walsh riding Kauto Star, and admits he was not surprised to see his mount turned over on that occasion.
He said: “I wasn’t surprised that Denman beat Kauto that day. They were two phenomenal horses to come along at the same time and they had a great rivalry.
“What Denman did in that year’s Gold Cup was unbelievable and the gallop he went was incredible. To have so many horses beaten so early that day was unbelievable. He was a wonderful horse.”
Walsh rode Denman 10 times, winning three Grade Ones, including the 2007 Lexus Chase.
He added: “For such a big horse, he had such movement of his feet in front of a jump – it was incredible.
“He was a brilliant horse to ride over a fence and he was just an unbelievable athlete. He had a brilliant career and he was a very good novice hurdler but chasing was always going to be his forte.
“He excelled over fences. He was unbeaten as a novice over fences and he went unbeaten for a long time over fences. He bolted up in the RSA and his performance in the Hennessy with Sam Thomas was spectacular.
“He was just an incredible racehorse and an incredible athlete.”