Denman powered to a formidable victory over stablemate Kauto Star to claim a famous win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Denman beat Kauto Star to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup
The 9-4 second favourite, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Thomas, won by seven lengths from 10-11 favourite Kauto Star, the holder.
Neptune Collonges set the early pace and pushed Kauto Star to the line to make it a 1-2-3 for Nicholls's yard.
"Denman was awesome. He jumped and galloped and put Kauto on the back foot really," said Nicholls.
"The moment I first saw the horse with Paul Barber (joint-owner) we said 'wow'.
"Neptune Collonges has been improving all the time and Kauto ran a good race too, but they were beaten on the day by a better horse.
"It was a great performance, good for the whole team. Just brilliant."
Nicholls added: "Your first win in a race is always the best and I'll never forget See More Business winning in 1999, but it doesn't get any better than saddling the one-two-three in the Gold Cup.
"Kauto didn't jump as well as he can and the ground may have been a little tacky for him, but we are not going to make any excuses. But Kauto will be back here and will win plenty more races."
The much-anticipated first duel between the relentless galloping of Denman, unbeaten in eight starts, and the lightning-fast finish of Kauto Star had been billed as the most exciting Gold Cup clash since Arkle beat Mill House in 1964.
I don't know what to say, I'm lost for words again. What a horse
Denman's jockey Sam Thomas
Neptune Collonges, a 20-1 chance, raced to the front and led for the first circuit around Prestbury Park with Denman sitting second and Kauto Star and Halcon Genelardais tracking behind in third.
But while Denman jumped effortlessly, Ruby Walsh's mount Kauto Star was less fluent over the fences.
Denman took up the running as the 12-runner field headed out for the second lap and a mistake from Kauto Star four fences out handed Denman a convincing lead.
The eight-year-old, who lives next door to Kauto Star in Nicholls's Somerset yard, kicked on and left the field chasing the minor places as he sealed the blue riband of jump racing.
"I don't know what to say, I'm lost for words again. What a horse," said Thomas.
"I went through the race in my head a million times before and it just went absolutely according to plan.
"He's just such a good horse and travelled so well for me."
Denman's co-owner, the colourful professional gambler Harry Findlay, said: "We had to get the tactics absolutely right to beat our stablemate (Kauto Star).
"Forget about your Grand Prix and your football and your tennis. This was two stablemates. We've had to do everything to break Kauto Star's heart and that's what we've done.
I'm disappointed but it's a horse race. The best horse on the day won
Kauto Star's jockey Ruby Walsh
"We've gone through the race so many times and we knew what we had to do. It was just brilliant."
Walsh said: "I'm disappointed but it's a horse race. The best horse on the day won.
"I was struggling past the winning post on the first circuit when Sam picked it up. I just couldn't get there. Well done to them all.
"Denman has gone a good old gallop, but he was going no quicker than they did in the Tingle Creek last season. I always thought Kauto could travel but he didn't today."
Walsh, who had the choice of riding either Denman or Kauto Star, added: "If you get it wrong, you get it wrong. I could only ride one. I picked the wrong one and that's racing.
"Of course he (Kauto Star) could come back next year. On any given day any horse can win."
It's an incredible game - I think we'll have him (Denman) in the rematch in 12 months' time
Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith
Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith added: "I think it's a great winner for the stable and I'm very pleased for the Denman connections.
"We didn't quite run up to our best, but I'm not saying we might have done any better. Congratulations to the Denman camp.
"Ruby said the horse found the ground a bit tacky and he didn't jump so well. He couldn't get off the ground so well.
"It's an incredible game. You're up one day and down the next. I think we'll have him (Denman) in the rematch in 12 months' time. I'm fine and happy about it."