Shark Hanlon has never been shy when it comes to speaking about his horses. The County Carlow-based trainer has always been vocal about his stable star Hewick in particular. His hugely progressive seven-year-old has long been the apple of his eye. Hanlon has an audacious plan to win the American Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup double. Part one of the plan has been achieved after his victory at Far Hills last week which leaves only the Cheltenham Festival’s blue ribband event in his way. Check out our free tips page for daily content across British and Irish racing.
Hewick burst onto the scene with an eight-length demolition job in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown back in April. He was well supported that day but racing fans couldn’t have expected such a dominant performance. More was to come as he followed that up by winning the Galway Plate in July. This victory established his status as arguably the most progressive horse in training.
$250,000 was on offer at Far Hills for the American Grand National which was significantly more than in previous years. His trainer stated that the logistical cost of the operation was $20,000. Connections were richly rewarded for their boldness with a $150,000 prize. The result never looked in doubt and it was a dominant display with a winning distance of over 11 lengths.
Currently rated 167, Hewick has 13lb to find with last season’s Gold Cup-winner A Plus Tard. It’s plausible that the required improvement is forthcoming. As Hanlon’s charge turns eight in January, there is scope for further progression. The Gold Cup would theoretically be just his tenth chase start which is an indication that there’s plenty more to come, a sentiment which his trainer echoes.
One major concern would be the plan to not run him between now and March. The statistics for such a long lay-off wouldn’t be in his favour. There’s plenty of time for that to change and the plan could differ further down the line. Whatever the outcome, this is a fantastic story and Hewick adds a fascinating dimension to the race.
The notion that Hewick isn’t “classy enough” to feature in a Gold Cup is probably inaccurate. Cool Ground won a handicap off 161 a fortnight before he won the 1992 Gold Cup. Nortons Coin was third in a handicap off 148 a month before he won the race in 1990. Cool Dawn was pulled up in a handicap off 153 on his final start before winning the Gold Cup.
Lord Windermere was rated 152 when he won the race, and Synchronised was only rated 155 until he won the Lexus and was rated 167 the day he won the Gold Cup. Sizing John was rated 150 on his first run for Jessica Harrington 11 weeks before the Gold Cup. Native River won a Welsh National 11 weeks before winning the Gold Cup off 155.
Al Boum Photo was rated 164 when he won his first Gold Cup. Minella Indo was rated 164. Most of the recent ones mentioned already had Grade 1 form admittedly, but Hewick is rated 167 and could easily be a 170+ horse. He deserves some respect.
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