Number 3: The bold front-running 'Tank' that won hearts for his Gold Cup rivalry with Nicholls stablemate Kauto Star

WITH the Cheltenham Festival now 3 days away, the Sun Racing team will be bringing you their 'Festival 50' every day between now and 10 March.

We will salute the Prestbury Park heroes that made us fall in love with the Festival, all the way until the 'Cheltenham roar' signals that the wait is finally over.

Number 3: Denman

The Denman show had punters up and down the country obsessed.

His rivalry with Kauto Star, his owners Harry Findlay and Paul Barber's differences and the passionate Paul Nicholls team all meant he was the most talked about horse in recent times.

His running style was bold and brave and he had the ability to match.

He'd only win the Gold Cup once, but his story was so much more than that unforgettable 2008 victory.

After a deal was tied up to move The Tank to Ditcheat after he ran riot in a Point-to-Point he quickly shone in the famous green and white.

Hurdling was never going to be his true calling, but he bullied most of his rivals during his first campaign under rules and was a supposed good thing in the 2006 Royal and Sun Alliance at 11-10.

Ruby Walsh still rues the day now as he blamed himself for the horse getting beat by the Irish challenger Nicanor.

That was it for him over hurdles. And what came next was where the fun really started.

The list so far…

50-41: All can be found here

40-31: All can be found here

30-21: All can be found here

20-11: All can be found here

10. Moscow Flyer

9. Dawn Run

8. Big Buck's

7. Bobs Worth

6. Kauto Star

5. Sprinter Sacre

4. Arkle

3. Denman

Chasing came easy to him and he routed his supposed rivals in the following year's Royal and Sun Alliance Chase.

Open company came calling thereafter and he was already being touted as a Gold Cup favourite in some corners.

A Hennessy win off top weight did nothing to quieten the crowd and both him and Kauto Star were joint favourites for the big one.

A Lexus Chase in Ireland only heightened expectations further and the rumours began circling that Ruby Walsh could be tempted into switching from Kauto to the tank.

But Walsh stayed loyal and the big day, and so did punters. Kauto Star was odds-on with Denman 9-4. The stage was set.

It was billed as a Gold Cup for the ages, but with Kauto Star not on a true going day, Denman and Sam Thomas made the most of it and they were relentless turning in.

Nothing could live with The Tank. The scenes were something else. You could see Findlay, Barber, Nicholls and Thomas beaming from the top of Cleeve Hill.

But from then in his love affair with Cheltenham would not rekindle in the same way.


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He'd finish second to Kauto the following year, but emerged with credit after a troubled year, before he was beat by Imperial Commander in 2010.

But it was his appeal off the track that warrants his place at three in the countdown.

The marmite personality of Harry Findlay is something to sport misses desperately these days.

Findlay credited the horse with keeping his mother alive through bad health and the horses friendly rivalry with Kauto Star was legendary, and another facet the game sorely misses.

Credit must go to Nicholls who far from shied away from some tricky calls.

Long live The Tank.


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