Denman

Denman

When he retired from racing, as an 11-year-old, Denman had won 14 of his 24 starts, including the Hennessy Gold Cup (twice), the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owned by Paul Barber and the ebullient professional gambler Harry Findlay and trained by Paul Nicholls, Denman was unbeaten in his first four starts over hurdles, including an easy 21-length win in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in 2006. He returned to Cheltenham for the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle the following March, but tasted defeat for the first time, going down by 2½ lengths to Nicanor.

 

Sent over fences in 2006/07, “The Tank”, as he became known, won all five starts, culminating with a convincing 10-length beating of Snowy Morning in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. After a break of 262 days, he reappeared at Newbury in December where, carrying 11st 12lb, he impressively won the Hennessy Gold Cup by 11 lengths from Dream Alliance.

 

He subsequently won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and the Aon Chase at Newbury the following February so, by the time the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup rolled around, he started at just 9/4 to dethrone the reigning champion, his stable companion Kauto Star. The forecast duel between the two Nicholls’ “big guns” never really materialised, though, because Denman went clear soon after the fourth last fence and, thereafter, Kauto Star could make no impression and eventually finished second, beaten 7 lengths.

 

In the September following his Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, Denman was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and, although he returned to training following treatment, it’s fair to say he was never, quite, the same horse again. He did manage to win the Hennessy Gold Cup for a second time, again under 11st 12lb, and finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010 and 2011, so Lord knows what he might have achieved had he stayed healthy for the whole of his career. Denman has enjoyed a happy retirement and currently looks after the young horses on the farm belonging to his owner Paul Barber.

Mick Fitzgerald

Mick Fitzgerald  In recent years, Mick Fitzgerald has become a familiar face as a television presenter, on At The Races, Channel 4 Racing and, more recently, ITV Racing. However, before being forced to retire after breaking his neck, for a second time, in a fall from L’Ami in the 2008 Grand National, Fizgerald enjoyed a stellar career as a National Hunt jockey.

 

All in all, he rode 1,280 winners – 726 of which were for Nicky Henderson – including 14 at the Cheltenham Festival and, although he never won the jump jockeys’ championship, at the time of his retirement he was, numerically, the fifth most successful National Hunt jockey of all time. Fitzgerald had originally intended to retire at the end of the 2006/07 season, but continued riding until his Aintree mishap. His recovery was painful and slow and he finally called time on his 20-year career after taking medical advice.

 

At that time, Nicky Henderson paid tribute to him, saying, “He’s not only been a great jockey, but a great mate; very reliable, a superstar. Stable jockeys are unfashionable these days, but he’s been an exemplary one, loyal, dedicated to the whole operation, utterly professional.”

 

Fitzgerald rode his first winner, Lover’s Secret, at Ludlow in 1988, but gradually established himself in the upper echelon of National Hunt jockeys and enjoyed associations with Paul Nicholls and, of course, Nicky Henderson. His career highlights included winning the 1996 Grand National on Rough Quest, after which he told Des Lynam, “Sex us an anti-climax after this”. He was leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival twice, in 1999 – when he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Call Equiname, for Henderson, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on See More Business, for Nicholls – and again in 2000.

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede  Compared with the likes of J.P. McManus, Gigginstown House Stud and Rich Ricci, financiers Simon Munir and Isaac Souede are ‘small fry’ in terms of Cheltenham Festival winners, with just four victories between them. Simon Munir has owned with Nicky Henderson for several years, winning the Triumph Hurdle with Soldatino in 2010 and the Fred Winter Juvenile with Une Artiste in 2012. However, since joining forces with Frenchman Isaac Souede, the partnership has continued to grow, in terms of numbers and quality, and now has horses in training in Great Britain, Ireland and France.

 

On this side of the English Channel, Munir and Souede have a decent variety of horses dispersed among Nicky Henderson, Nigel Twiston Davies, Alan King, David Pipe and, most recently, Ben Pauling in Britain and Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot in Ireland. They won the Triumph Hurdle with Peace And Co, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 2015 and the Arkle Challenge Trophy with Footpad, trained by Willie Mullins, in 2018.

 

The latter, who remains unbeaten over fences, including four Grade 1 wins, has yet to win beyond 2 miles 3½ furlongs but, even so, looks a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in the making. Two of their other Cheltenham possibilities, Top Notch – who was only beaten a length by Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2017 – and We Have A Dream, missed the Festival in 2018, but won their respective races at Sandown and Aintree, respectively, the following month and remain bright prospects for the future.

 

Munir and Souede may not be competing for the Leading Owner Award at the Cheltenham Festival any time soon, but their continued investment in up-and-coming young horses, not to mention their recruitment of Daryl Jacob as their retained jockey, must surely pay dividends at some point.