Robin Oakley

The turf | 14 February 2009

Benefit of the doubt

There is no certainty today. For years we humble wage-earners were told that City bankers were sage repositories of special expertise who could be entrusted with that little that is left when the taxman and the bookies have finished with us. In reality, it turns out, they were greedy spivs who knew no more about the financial packages they dealt in to feed their bonuses than the betting shop loud mouth who claims infallible information about the winner of the forthcoming 2.30.

Now in racing, too, we are riven with doubt. After his defeat at Kempton Park last Saturday on a seasonal debut delayed by a heart scare, many are suggesting that ‘The Tank’, as Denman’s devoted part-owner Harry Findlay calls him, has a busted engine, that his dominance of the jumping scene could prove a mere single-season phenomenon. Was it a blip, or had we over-estimated him all along?

The Denman doubters suggest that ‘The Tank’ is a bully, that he only won races in the past because he was allowed to dominate from the front. This time, they point out, Madison du Berlais, who beat Denman by 23 lengths, took him on after the tenth fence and never let him get into his rhythm. The doubters note, too, that after his extraordinary Gold Cup Triumph last season Denman never made another appearance, suggesting that that race had taken far more out of him than his clear Cheltenham victory over his stablemate Kauto Star had indicated. The vets may have pronounced him clear of his heart fibrillation problem, they say, but they weren’t testing him under the physical and mental stress of a race.

Those who would excuse Denman argue that a sharp right-handed track did not suit him as the galloping, left-handed Newbury track, where the contest was due to have been held before the weather intervened, would have done.

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