Denman, winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup and a tremendous runner-up in both 2009, 2010 & 2011, looks set to begin his build-up to another crack at the blue riband contest with an outing in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, writes Elliot Slater.

The Paul Nicholls-trained superstar hasn’t been seen since disappointing at Aintree on his final start of last term, a run that probably came too soon after his Cheltenham heroics where he dualled with long-time rival and stable companion Kauto Star for much of the race before the pair were swamped for speed by the five-years younger Long Run who eventually drew away up the hill to beat Denman by seven-lengths. Those following the latest Cheltenham Festival betting should remember this.

Although he is fast approaching his 12th birthday it is reported that the winner of 14 of his 24 career starts and over £1.1 million in total prize money is still showing plenty of spark on the Ditcheat gallops and Nicholls is seriously considering starting the campaign with a trip to Ireland to contest the race that Denman landed as far back as 2007 when he justified long odds-on and proved four-lengths too good for local star Mossbank.

Over the years Denman has proved quite capable of winning first-time out as he proved once again in November 2009 when landing the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury for a second time under the massive burden of 11st 12lbs. The Lexus Chase is certainly a tough first target this term for Denman with other serious contenders likely to include Ireland’s main Gold Cup hope this season Quito De La Roque, as well as other smart local performers such as Rubi Light and the back to form Joncol.

Denman is currently a best priced 25/1 chance for the 2012 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, odds that will rapidly tumble if he runs a big race in the Leopardstown feature event.

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