With their head-to-head score tied at one apiece, the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup was billed as the latest rematch between Kauto Star and Denman, who had won the last three renewals of the ‘Blue Riband’ event between them. Although in different ownership the two main protagonists were saddled by reigning champion trainer Paul Nicholls and, unsurprisingly, were sent off 8/11 favourite and 4/1 favourite, respectively. Third choice in the betting market, at 7/1, was Imperial Commander, who had been involved in a sustained duel with Kauto Star when beaten by the minimum margin in the Betfair Chase at Haydock the previous November, but had finished 64 lengths behind the same horse in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, after failing to recover from a mistake at the second fence.
By contrast, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it was the reigning champion, Kauto Star, who suffered from jumping frailties. What jockey Ruby Walsh described as ‘a bad mistake’ before halfway knocked Kauto Star out of position and thereafter he was always fighting a losing battle, finally parting company with Walsh at the infamous fourth-last fence on the New Course when struggling in fifth place. Stable companion Denman, ridden by A.P. McCoy, raced prominently throughout and was still in the lead on the approach to second-last fence. However, even ‘The Tank’, as Denman was affectionately known, had no answer when tackled by Imperial Commander at the penultimate obstacle.
Ridden by Paddy Brennan, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained nine-year-old was driven clear in the closing stages to win by 7 lengths, going away from his nearest pursuer, Denman, who finished tired, but remained well clear of the third horse. Mon Mome, winner of the Grand National in 2009, was tailed off at one stage, but made relentless progress from the second-last fence to snatch the minor placing in the dying strides at odds of 50/1.