Diamond Harry posts a sparkling display

Williams' well-backed gelding foils top-weight Denman's brave bid for an unprecedented third Hennessy Gold Cup

If it was a failure, it was a gallant and glorious one. Denman did not win an unprecedented third Hennessy Gold Cup here yesterday but by looking as if he might until the 20th of 21 fences he gave the frozen faithful in the grandstands an emotion-wrenching winter heartwarmer. They responded by cheering the big gelding and his rider, Sam Thomas, throughout; in flight over the birch and ditches, in his fight through the closing stages and in his unbowed might as he returned to the spot reserved for the third-place finisher.

They also gave a rousing reception to the winner of this classiest staying handicap chase of the season, Diamond Harry, who signalled his emerging talent as he took advantage of his light weight. Carrying 10st to Denman's 11st 12lb, the seven-year-old was always among the leaders and, with Daryl Jacob in the saddle for the first time, put in an exhibition round of jumping.

A relentless pace was set for more than a circuit by Hey Big Spender on testing ground suited those who were able to maintain a rhythm, none more so than Diamond Harry and Denman. The pair came into the home straight together and settled to the battle. A slight mistake by Diamond Harry four out handed the advantage to Denman, but Diamond Harry, a well-backed 6-1 shot, regained his equilibrium and the two rose to the third last, the final open ditch, as one. But it was clear the young pretender, the star of Nick and Jane Williams's small Devon string, had the old warrior's measure and a mistake from Denman at the penultimate fence settled the issue.

Another lightweight, Burton Port, recovered from a blunder at the cross fence well enough to stay on for second, a length and a quarter adrift. It was 14 lengths back to Denman, who held his own Paul Nicholls stablemate The Tother One at bay by half a length, with Niche Market fifth.

Diamond Harry, in the colours of Paul and Janet Duffy, was running in a chase for only the fourth time; he was a talented staying hurdler early last season but after being firmly put in his place by the king of that division, Big Buck's, was diverted to fences.

"The horse has changed physicallya lot in the last six months," said Nick Williams, who combines training with an accountancy business, "and he has a good record here, so I thought this was the race for him.

"Coming into the straight I could see Daryl hadn't moved. From three out I would have been astounded if anything had got past him."

Jacob was just as confident, though quick to acknowledge Denman's effort. He said: "If we were going to beat him it had to be today, but he was still right there with me at the second-last. But I'd sat on mine during the week, and I'd told Nick I'd never ride one like him again.

"He gave me the same feel today; he jumped, he travelled, he did everything I asked him to. And he's a young horse, and still unexposed, still growing into his frame. The Gold Cup is a way off – he was getting all that weight today – but we can dream."

Lightweights in handicaps are by definition horses who have not achieved as much as those rated above them, but this is a contest that can spotlight upwardly mobile types who can progress to mixing it with the best when the playing field is level.

Diamond Harry may be given his chance in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas. Bookmakers are divided over his Cheltenham Gold Cup chances, though, rated between 8-1 and 14-1.

Denman, who won the Hennessy in 2007 and last year under the same welter burden and started 4-1 favourite yesterday, was trying to achieve what even Arkle could not; the peerless one went down by half a length to Stalbridge Colonist, conceding 35lb, when trying to win his third edition back in 1966. The 10-year-old will not run again until the Gold Cup.

"He had a hard race," said Thomas. "But then, he always does, because he always gives it everything he's got. He'll sleep well tonight."

Of the two reigning champions to make their seasonal debuts here, Big Buck's return to action went smoothlyin the Long Distance Hurdle, but a ring-rusty Binocular could finish only third to the Donald McCain-trained Peddlers Cross in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle as he began the defence of his Champion Hurdle crown.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing