Denman and Ruby Walsh, right, take the last fence on their way to victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup from What A Friend at Newbury. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Press Association
Comparisons to the mid-1960s golden era of jumps racing when stablemates Arkle and Flyingbolt towered above their rivals have never seemed more relevant after confirmation that Denman had matched Kauto Star by being pushed up to a career-high mark by Timeform.
Meanwhile, the mouth-watering prospect of the two horses clashing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March with the two outstanding jockeys of the current generation on board was also underlined as one bookmaker made Tony McCoy 1-3 favourite to ride Denman against Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh.
Unlike Kauto Star, who sprinted clear to take the King George VI Chase by 36 lengths at Kempton on Boxing Day, Denman's higher rating has been achieved without him having to leave his box at Paul Nicholls's yard.
Instead it was the victory in Tuesday's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown by What A Friend, the horse who was unable to live with Denman in the final stages of Newbury's Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup last month despite being in receipt of 22lb, that has seen Denman raised 2lb by Timeform to a new rating of 183, 8lb behind Kauto Star's 191.
His official British Horseracing Authority rating is likely to be adjusted by a similar amount or more.
"What A Friend has gone up from 154 to 156 as a result of his Lexus Chase win, so we have taken a fairly conservative view about the strength of that form, but there is no doubt that Denman deserves to have his rating for his Hennessy victory raised and both he and Kauto Star have never been rated as highly as they are now," said Timeform spokesman Kieran Packman.
"The only other comparable period in the last 50 years of jumps racing was when Moscow Flyer (184) beat Azertyuiop (182) and Well Chief (182) in the Tingle Creek Chase in 2004."
Paddy Power started betting on who will ride Denman in this year's Gold Cup, making reigning champion McCoy the 1-3 favourite to get the mount. Sam Thomas, who rode Denman to finish second to Kauto Star in last season's race, is a 5-1 chance.
However, rather than attempt to dominate the Gold Cup in numbers for the second year running, Nicholls, who sent out first, second, fourth and fifth in the race last year, has confirmed that he will resist the temptation to run What A Friend in a bid to repeat his 1-2-3 in 2008.
"He's had two runs now and he'll probably melt a little bit, so my inclination is to leave him fresh and go to Aintree and Punchestown," said Nicholls. "He'll have a Gold Cup entry, just in case anything happens, but if Denman and Kauto ran I suspect I'll have a chat with Ged [Mason] and Sir Alex [Ferguson] and we'll aim for Aintree. He doesn't enjoy it when the ground is that soft. He'll be much better in the spring on some better ground."