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Harry Findlay bemused as bookies favour Kauto Star over Denman 29/11/2009
Will Hayler

A couple of hundred yards from where Denman was enjoying a leisurely day in his box, Harry Findlay was relaxing at the Manor House Inn in Ditcheat yesterday, reflecting upon an astonishing performance and wondering what more Denman would need to have done at Newbury on Saturday in the Hennessy in order to overtake Kauto Star at the head of the betting for March's Totesport Gold Cup.

Eight months ago, Kauto Star became the first horse in that race's long and distinguished history to regain the trophy when beating Denman, who, time has shown, was not himself last season, by 13 lengths. Could Denman now emulate that feat by reversing the placings in March?

Among those bookmakers able to split the pair in their betting, it is Kauto Star rather than Denman who is quoted as favourite. Findlay, who has won – and lost – millions with his betting, is surprised.

"I read this morning that someone was saying that it was a below-par Hennessy, but that seems perverse to me," he said. "Denman never even took part for the first mile of the race and it was only when he pinged the cross fence and got into his rhythm that he was able to get to the front. Once he got there, they all came to take him on. On the home turn, he had the second favourite, the third favourite and the fourth favourite all on his shoulders and they all tried to take him on and he matched them all, giving away stones to them. For me, the name of the Gold Cup favourite starts with a 'D'."

While Kauto Star will next month bid to win the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton for an unprecedented fourth successive time, Denman will be out of action until the Aon Chase at Newbury in February, his prep for the Gold Cup.

"It's all about Paul Nicholls getting them both there and that's what everyone is hoping for," said Findlay. "They really are completely dominant as I don't see Cooldine's RSA Chase win as being worth anything. It's impossible for Imperial Commander to stay the Gold Cup distance, as it's a real stamina test.

"Two years ago we attacked for home early and that's how we beat Kauto Star. I don't know if we could do that again, but after what we've seen yesterday I'd make him favourite. Kauto Star had a hard race at Haydock. But who knows?"

The decision to bypass a run at Leopardstown over Christmas may have something to do with Denman's increasingly unpredictable behaviour on the racecourse. Having recently all but tried to pull himself up during a racecourse gallop at Exeter, Denman seemed to be having second thoughts about whether he wanted to take part in Saturday's race.

"Ruby [Walsh] thought that there was a genuine danger that he wasn't going to line up," said Findlay. "It was prophetic really, because he'd said beforehand that he reckoned the biggest danger to Denman was himself. It was a brilliant, brilliant training performance to get Denman there in the form that he was [in] and an even better ride from Ruby, who rushed him up on the outside as the tapes were going up and gave him that momentum. I know next to nothing about the training of racehorses but what I do know is that if you asked me to train one horse, it wouldn't be Denman."

Meanwhile, Timeform has awarded a career-high provisional rating for Denman of 181 after his latest victory, making him 12th in its all-time standings for steeplechasers. But that mark still leaves him with 3lb to find with Kauto Star, who is currently rated 184.