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Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Monday, 29 November 2010

Denman ruled out of 2011 Grand National at Aintree

Denman in the Hennessy
Denman has won the Gold Cup once and been runner-up twice

By Frank Keogh

Ante-post favourite Denman will not be entered to run in the 2011 Grand National, BBC Sport has learned.

The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was a gallant third as he tried to win a historic third Hennessy Gold Cup under top weight at Newbury on Saturday.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls plans to give the 10-year-old a break and send him straight to the Gold Cup in March.

"Denman won't run pre-Cheltenham, and he will not have an entry in the Grand National," said Nicholls.

Denman had been as low as 12-1 for the Aintree marathon in March but had never been confirmed as a likely runner.

It is thought Nicholls and owner Paul Barber do not want to risk the gelding - who has fought back from a heart problem that nearly ended his career - over the demanding Aintree obstacles.

His great rival and next-door neighbour Kauto Star, a dual Gold Cup winner who is set to bid for a record fifth King George VI Chase win at Kempton on Boxing Day, will also avoid the National.

After Denman was runner-up to Imperial Commander in the Gold Cup in March 2010, it was suggested he would be ideally suited by the unique demands of the four-and-a-half mile handicap chase.

"Denman looks a National horse through and through and I'd be very surprised if he doesn't take in next year's race," said Harry Findlay, whose mother Margaret then owned the horse in partnership with Barber.

But the Findlays later ended ties with Nicholls and the horse - who is nicknamed 'The Tank' - is now in the sole ownership of Barber, who visited Denman on Saturday night after his gallant Hennessy run.


Denman carried 11st 12lb in Saturday's race, 26lb more than both the winner Diamond Harry and runner-up Burton Port.

"My wife and I went down to see Denman at 10 o'clock when we got in. He ate his Polo mints, said thank you very much and looked fabulous," stated Barber.

"We've known all season that he's got his old enthusiasm back. It was a wonderful race to watch and to be part of it.

"The atmosphere there was absolutely tremendous I thought. It was great."

Nicholls believes Denman, who was ridden by Sam Thomas, now needs a longer break between races and has earned a rest of nearly four months before what might be his final realistic chance of regaining the Gold Cup in 2011.

"I've had a chat with Sam and because he's best fresh, we're going to give him a break now and go straight for the Gold Cup," he commented.

Nicholls, who has never won the Grand National, is hoping to aim two of his stablemates - The Totherone and Niche Market - at the race after they finished fourth and fifth in the Hennessy.

Niche Market was considered one of the leading contenders for the 2010 National but was pulled up after being knocked into by another horse.

He was transferred to Nicholls from Bob Buckler by Irish owner Graham Regan.

Niche Market is rated about 20-1 for the Grand National on 9 April, with The Totherone at 25s.

Meanwhile, Nicholls said Neptune Collonges - who was brought down in the Hennessy on his first run for 20 months - will next run in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on 28 December.

Tony McCoy on Don't Push It

Full Replay - Don't Push It wins Grand National

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see also
Diamond Harry triumphs at Newbury
27 Nov 10 |  Horse Racing
Denman storms to Gold Cup victory
14 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Denman claims historic Hennessy
28 Nov 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman powers to Hennessy success
01 Dec 07 |  Horse Racing
McCoy ends wait for National win
11 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing

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