Big-jumping Denman gave weight away to all his rivals
Top-weight Denman produced one of the most memorable runs of modern times as he defied his big burden to win a second Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
The 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner (11-4f), who had a heart scare last year, beat stablemate What a Friend, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Niche Market was third, while Barbers Shop - owned by the Queen - was fourth.
Denman, ridden by Ruby Walsh, is the first horse since the Irish chaser Arkle in to win a second Hennessy.
Trainer Paul Nicholls was initially rendered speechless after Denman moved closer to a third match-up with dual Gold Cup winner Kauto Star.
Denman knocked his stablemate off his perch in 2008, though their second match-up the following March ended in Kauto Star's favour.
To see a run like that from Denman is very, very special
Next spring, Kauto Star will be gunning for a third Gold Cup, with Denman going for his second - and every other trainer in the country knows they will have a tough task to split this extraordinary pair.
Ladbrokes quote them joint 2-1 favourites for the race next March while sponsors totesport marginally side with Kauto Star, offering 7-4 about the champion and Denman at 9-4.
An emotional Nicholls said: "That was an exceptional moment, one I will never forget.
"I said to Ruby going out that he had one horse to beat if everything went to plan - that one horse was What A Friend and it has turned out exactly like that.
"To see a run like that from Denman is very, very special."
Carrying 11st 12lb in the handicap chase over three miles and two furlongs, Denman was lumping 12lb more than his nearest rival.
But the winner of the same race in 2007 justified the weight of expectation from punters who backed him to provide a victory which many thought was impossible.
A bumper crowd at Newbury roared their approval as the imposing chaser, under top Irish jockey Walsh, maintained a relentless rhythm.
As the closing stages approached in the rain-softened ground, the weight looked sure to tell, but Denman bullied his opponents into submission.
The muscle-bound horse, nicknamed 'The Tank', romped home by three and a half lengths from What A Friend (7-1). Niche Market (33-1) was three and three-quarter lengths away in third and Barbers Shop (13-2) fourth.
Left trailing in their wake was a classy field of rivals, including the 2006 Gold Cup winner War of Attrition and 2009 Grand National victor Mon Mome.
Paul Barber, who jointly owns Denman with professional gambler Harry Findlay, said: "I've never seen anything like that to be honest. I knew he could give all that weight away, but didn't know if he would."
Triple King George VI Chase winner Kauto Star and Denman are next-door neighbours at the stable of champion trainer Nicholls in Ditcheat, Somerset.
And National Hunt racing is revelling in a golden generation of top steeplechasers as the two horses continue to rack up the big prizes.
"The Gold Cup is a long way off, but both Denman and Kauto Star have proved as good as ever," said Nicholls.
Next stop for Denman is likely to be the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in Ireland over the festive period, while Kauto Star goes for a record fourth straight King George, a feat that would surpass even the galloping grey Desert Orchid, who won the Kempton race four times in five years.
Walsh, who has chosen Kauto Star above Denman in the last two Gold Cups, took the ride at Newbury ahead of usual partner Sam Thomas.
The rider when Denman landed Cheltenham's blue riband event, Thomas was aboard Hennessy runner-up What a Friend, and was left to admit the winner was a "freak."
Earlier, Nicholls had enjoyed a Newbury boost when his World Hurdle winner Big Buck's (2-5f) cruised to victory in the Sportingbet.com Long Distance Hurdle.
He cantered throughout the extended three-mile contest, cruised into the final flight and despite nodding on landing went clear to score by seven lengths from the game runner-up Lough Derg.
Meanwhile at Newcastle, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Go Native shocked his better-touted rivals to claim the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at odds of 25-1.
The pre-race talk had centred on leading Champion Hurdle contenders Binocular and Solwhit, but they both finished out of the frame in a race which suffered from a lack of early pace.
Hennessy Gold Cup 3m 2f, Newbury
1 Denman (R Walsh) P Nicholls 11-4 f
2 What a Friend (P Nicholls) S Thomas 7-1
3 Niche Market (A Glassonbury) 33-1
4 Barbers Shop (B Geraghty)
19 ran. Dist: 3½, 3¾, shd