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2019 Denman Chase tips - Runner-by-runner preview of Saturday's Grade Two feature chase at Newbury

Brian Healy 5 Feb 2019
The Denman Chase is one of Saturday's feature races at Newbury.

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look ahead to Saturday's Grade Two feature chase at Newbury, the Denman Chase.

The Grade Two Denman Chase is one of the feature events on a cracking Saturday afternoon racecard at Newbury, and a potential field of ten runners have thrown their hats into the ring for the day’s  big chase which goes to post at 2.25pm as the third race of the afternoon and boasts a first prize of almost £30,000 to the winner of the three-mile race.

The contest often serves as one of the primary trials for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, and fancies for the chasing Blue Riband occasionally take in this contest as a final prep run before the big race. Recent years have seen Native River, Denman, Kauto Star and Coneygree all win this race before going on to Gold Cup Glory.

Other notable names to have captured this prize include Houblon Des Obeaux, Silviniaco Conti, Madison du Berlais and Long Run who had won the Gold Cup the previous year.

Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River (4/5, Paddy Power) has won this race on each of the past two years, and the King’s Threatre gelding returns to Newbury bidding for a hat-trick of wins in the Denman Chase as he prepares to defend his Gold Cup crown next month.

The nine-year old saw off Cloudy Lane in this race twelve months ago when facing just three rivals on his return from eleven months off following injury sustained in the previous season’s Gold Cup; and having won easily on that occasion, he subsequently got the better of Might Bite to capture Cheltenham Festival glory.

Things haven’t quite gone to plan this term, and the Gold Cup hero has been beaten on both starts where he has found Bristol De Mai too strong on his return in the Betfair Chase, and then finishing third behind Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton in the King George VI Chase. 

However, excuses can be offered for both those runs with the ground probably too quick for him at Haydock; while going right-handed on a track probably much too sharp for him are viable reasons for his defeat.

Back on a stiffer, more galloping track and with softer ground forecast then he could get back on the scoresheet if returning to his best form, and he remains the one to beat despite back-to-back reversals this term.

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River has won the last two renewals of the Denman Chase.

Clan Des Obeaux (13/8, Ladbrokes) ran out an impressive winner at Kempton, beating Native River and Coneygree who also reopposes here when claiming the King George VI Chase for Paul Nicholls.

The Kapgarde gelding has been steadily progressive over fences, winning during the 2017/18 season at Haydock and chasing home the likes of Whisper and Guitar Pete prior to an excellent third behind Might Bite in the Aintree Bowl where he was beaten around ten lengths.

Although probably in need of the run on his return in the Betfair Chase, finishing fourth behind Bristol De Mai, he stepped up considerably on that performance to strike at Kempton with a near-two lengths’ success over Thistlecrack where he travelled strongly throughout before taking up the running jumping the last fence and finding enough to hold off his adversary to strike the biggest win of his career.

His task was made easier however by the mid-race fall of Bristol De Mai who in turn brought down Waiting Patiently; and with Might Bite again running below his best, and Native River ill at ease on the track there has to be a slight question mark over the validity of the performance, and there is a suspicion that the race fell apart to some extent.

Nevertheless, he is a classy individual in his own right, and he’s clearly a progressive horse who could have more in his locker. Whether he can uphold Kempton form under different conditions however is open to question and he might find Native River a different proposition now.

Former Gold Cup hero Coneygree (14/1, Ladbrokes) hasn’t had his troubles to seek with a succession of niggling injuries blighting his career since he won the Gold Cup as a novice with an exhilarating display of bold jumping from the front.

Mark Bradstock’s Karinga Bay made a very encouraging return from another lengthy absence in the wake of wind surgery when finishing third behind Rock The Kasbah at Cheltenham in November, and the twelve-year old suffered an overreach when unseating his rider in the King George VI Chase, although he was beaten at the time at Kempton.

Possibly he was made too much use of from the front, where he pushed on at a decent clip, and he weakened out of things quickly once headed in that race before parting company with Sean Bowen. His earlier run at Cheltenham showed he remained capable of very smart form, and he’s been given time to recover from Kempton; but despite getting 6lbs from the principals, he is likely to prove vulnerable.

Can Coneygree roll back the years to claim a second Denman Chase?

Tony Martin’s ANIBALE FLY (8/1, Bet365) is a potentially interesting runner should the Assessor gelding take his chance, and the nine-year old could be one to take seriously.

A winner and placed in Graded company in Ireland, the nine-year old last tasted success when beating Ucello Conti in the Paddy Power Chase during the 2017 Leopardstown Christmas Festival; and having fallen behind Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup, he stayed on best in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to snatch third although he was no match for the front pair.

Subsequently fourth in the Grand National, finishing around ten lengths off Tiger Roll at Aintree, he probably needed his return over a trip well short of his best at Cork back in December where he beat only two home in the Hilly Way Chase.

That clearly wasn’t his running, and he is expected to do much better back over this more suitable trip and with the benefit of that run under his belt he can post a big run with conditions likely to prove ideal for the nine-year old.

He’ll need to find a jolt of improvement if he’s to trouble the principal pair where he gets only 2lbs. But his shrewd handler knows the time of day, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him getting involved.

He could be joined in the line-up by fellow Irish raider Noble Endeavour (66/1, Paddy Power) from the Gordon Elliott camp, but the Flemensfirth gelding perhaps isn’t the force of old.

The ten-year old was a Leopardstown winner back in December 2016, beating The Crafty Butcher, and having subsequently finished third in the 2017 Ultima Handicap Chase behind Un Temps Pour Tout he posted a highly creditable sixth in the Irish Grand National before being off the track for 600 days.

Ninth on his return in the Becher Chase, that was a good effort by Gordon Elliott’s charge who probably needed the run in crossing the line some forty lengths in arrears from winner Walk In The Park. He should strip fitter, but this is a much stiffer task facing him now, and he’s never won in Graded company so clearly has plenty to do if turning out.

Nicky Henderson pair Gold Present (33/1, Paddy Power) and Beware The Bear are capable of getting involved at their respective best, with the former bouncing back from a couple of lacklustre runs towards the end of last term to finish a good third to Politologue in the Christy 1965 Chase.

The Presenting gelding however floundered on his next run back at Ascot in the Garrard Silver Cup where the softer ground was probably against him as he trailed home almost forty lengths behind Valtor.

His best form has come over shorter trips than this however, and better ground seems to suit givenm all his wins have come on a less testing surface than he might experience on Saturday. While a smart performer in his own right, this is likely to prove too much of a test for the nine-year old.

Gold Present (right) could be one of two Nicky Henderson-trained runners in Saturday's feature.

Conversely, Beware The Bear (25/1, Coral) will have no issue with potentially softer ground, and the Shantou gelding can give a good account of himself without being quite good enough to trouble the principals at this level.

The 2017 Rehearsal Chase winner failed to fire next time in the Welsh Grand National; but he bounced back with a better effort behind Coo Star Sivola in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival prior to pulling up in the Scottish Grand National.

Two runs this term following wind surgery have yielded a promising return here behind Sizing Tennessee in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase, and he stepped up on that run to beat Shanroe Santos back at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day when scoring in first-time blinkers.

This however is a considerable step up in class, and he’s been found wanting at Graded level previously; he’ll have plenty on his plate on these terms to get competitive.

The Last Samurai (33/1, Paddy Power) remains capable of good form, although he’s yet to further add to his tally since beating The Druid’s Nephew by ten lengths in the 2016 Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster, after which he chased home Rule The World in the Grand National.

The Flemensfirth gelding had shown he retains plenty of his old ability during the last campaign, making the frame on each of his first four outings which included chasing home Blaklion in the Becher Chase, and finishing third to Tiger Roll in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham Festival.

But, having disappointed back at Aintree in last seasons Grand National, he underwent wind surgery and was subsequently moved to Harry Fry; and he ran a respectable fifth on his reappearance behind Valtor at Ascot prior to chasing home Royal Vacation at Taunton when last seen in the Portman Cup.

Largely a consistent sort, the eleven year old has yet to make much of an impression at this level, and while underfoot conditions are unlikely to faze him he probably needs more of a stamina test than he’ll get here. He can post a solid run, but he may get going too late again and this much tougher company is likely to find him out.

Thomas Patrick (50/1, William Hill) looked smart last term, winning four times which included here in March with a defeat of Dawson City, after which he ran out a four lengths’ victor over On Tour at Aintree in a Grade Three handicap contest.

Tom Lacey’s charge continued his progression when narrowly going down behind Elegant Escape on his return at Sandown; but he has struggled on all starts since, failing to complete twice with pulled up efforts here behind Sizing Tennessee, and at Taunton behind Royal Vacation.

The Winged Love gelding has time on his side being a seven-year old, but he faces a stiff task on these terms and he needs to bounce back with a big performance.

Thomas Patrick will need to bounce back from some lacklustre runs if he's to trouble the principals in Saturday's showpiece.

Ballyhill (66/1, BetVictor) has been consistent at a lesser level than this, getting back on the scoresheet at Aintree in December with a defeat of Caltex prior to posting back-to-back third-place finishes at Cheltenham behind Aso and Siruh Du Lac respectively.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has yet to try this trip, but he has shaped in recent runs as if he may benefit from a stiffer test. However, his best form leaves him with plenty to find against some classy rivals, and he’s likely to find this company too hot.


Native River is likely to prove a different proposition now to the horse that finished third at Kempton, and a return to a more galloping track and softer ground could see Colin Tizzard’s Gold Cup winner gain some revenge on King George VI Chase hero Clan Des Obeaux.

The latter won’t go down easily, but while he won at Kempton a shade readily, there is a suspicion the race somewhat fell apart with the departures of Bristol De Mai and Waiting Patiently, and below par runs from Might Bite and Tizzard’s Native River who wasn’t suited by the track.

There’s little value in the pair however, and ANIBALE FLY (8/1, Bet365, each-way) could be worth a sporting interest with Tony Martin’s charge not far below the prinicpal pair on official ratings, and the Assessor gelding should be better suited by a return to this longer trip having made his return in the Hilly Way Chase over two miles back in December.

The Irish raider is suited by a much stiffer test than he got there, and he caught the eye finishing well from off the pace in last season’s Gold Cup behind Native River, eventually crossing the line in third although beaten around eight lengths.

Fourth subsequently in the Grand National at Aintree, the JP McManus-owned gelding ought to strip fitter for his return at Cork, and with ground no issue he can find improvement for that run back over a more suitable trip.

Strictly on ratings he’ll need to step up to get the better of the front pair in the betting, from whom he gets 2lbs; but given respective odds he is worth chancing to post a big effort against the principal pair and no surprise to see him go well if taking his chance.

2019 DENMAN CHASE - ANIBALE FLY (8/1, Bet365, each-way

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2019 Denman Chase tips - Runner-by-runner preview of Saturday's Grade Two feature chase at Newbury

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look ahead to Saturday's Grade Two feature chase at Newbury, the Denman Chase.

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