Impressive when successful 12 months ago, Denman was disappointing on his belated reappearance at Kempton five weeks ago when well held behind the improving Madison Du Berlais and it is difficult to see him retaining his crown following that effort and a safer bet looks to be stable companion KAUTO STAR.
Himself impressive when winning here two years ago, the Clive Smith-owned gelding looked beaten when unseating Sam Thomas at Haydock in November but was back to his best in the King George subsequently and he is taken to reclaim the crown that he won in 2007.
Kauto Star's trainer Paul Nicholls has a strong hand in the Gold Cup being responsible for not just the last two winners of the race but also My Will and Star De Mohaison plus last season's third Neptune Collonges, who is the pick of this trio and comes here on the back of success in Leopardstown's Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. Jonjo O'Neill's Exotic Dancer is capable but has been held by Kauto Star on too many occasions to be considered likely to beat the selection and of more interest may be the progressive Barbers Shop.
Nicky Henderson's gelding would be a popular winner and good for the sport being owned by The Queen. The seven-year-old found just Finger Onthe Pulse too good in the Jewson last year but he has carried on improving this term and has to be respected given his trainers fine record at the meeting.
Charlie Mann's Air Force One deserves to win a big prize but he may find this trip in this company beyond him, while Jonjo O'Neill's Albertas Run has a bit to find with the selection on their running in the King George but may do better over this more testing track.
Madison Du Berlais is improving rapidly and has to be considered but there are doubts concerning the form of his Kempton victory and a safer bet looks to be Kauto Star, who can claim his second Gold Cup.