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Horse Racing profile: Hewick

Hewick stunned the leading contenders in the King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas with a sensational last-to-first swoop to cement his status as jumps racing's unlikely hero.

Trained by Shark Hanlon in Ireland, it is a well-documented fact now that Hewick was bought for a mere £800 and what an investment that has proved to be.

In total, Hewick has won well over £600,000 for his connections and his trainer is adamant he's far from finished just yet, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup likely to be his next stop.

WhatCheltenham Gold Cup
WhereCheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
When3.30, Friday 15th March, 2024
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming, ITV & Racing TV
OddsGalopin Des Champs 11/8, Fastorslow 7/2, Gerri Colombe 9/1, Shiskin 12/1, Hewick 14/1

King George win thrills the Shark

John 'Shark' Hanlon is one of racing's most colourful characters and he was in clover as Hewick staged an unlikely rally to win the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.

It was Hewick's first run since a midfield finish in the Galway Plate in August.

With regular rider Jordan Gainford absent, in-form pilot Gavin Sheehan was drafted in as a supersub.

Hewick was outpaced almost from flagfall and at certain points in the race, seemed as though he was getting detached from the pack.

As former winner Frodon weakened, Shishkin came to take matters by the scruff of the neck, with favourite Allaho and defending champ Bravemansgame marking his card from behind as the big three loomed large in the Christmas Grade 1.

Shishkin appeared to have that pair on the hook, but he slipped after jumping the second last and deposited Nico de Boinville on the floor.

Both Allaho and Bravemansgame were inconvenienced by his mishap, though they now appeared to have the race between themselves.

They both got leg-weary after the last and Sheehan – who later admitted he'd likely have pulled up on Hewick if it wasn’t the King George – came home strongly to win the festive Grade 1.

Hanlon said: "It's unreal. I said to Gavin 'listen, he will stay all day' but they went very hard and he just couldn't lay up with them [early].

"Coming out of the back straight I thought we'd definitely be in the first three because he was just getting into a rhythm and just getting going. They were going plenty hard in front."

Hewick the unlikely hero

Given his paltry price tag, Hewick's story is a remarkable one. He failed to complete in three point-to-points and opened his account at the 12th attempt over hurdles at Kilbeggan in September 2020.

The following summer he scored on his fencing bow at Clonmel and he'd end 2021 by winning a Durham National at Sedgefield in October.

His next port of call was the Midlands National at Uttoxeter in March 2022 but he was pulled up there before landing his biggest win at that point in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown a month later.

That summer he banked €162k for winning the prestigious Galway Plate at Ballybrit as Gainford established a strong alliance with him.

They looked set to add a Kerry National at Listowel in the autumn only to come down at the last obstacle.

Glory in the USA

Unperturbed, the Shark plotted a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Far Hills for the American Grand National in October 2022.

Gainford and Hewick motored home nicely to collect that Grade 1 prize in New Jersey and further embellish Hewick's status as an overachiever in life.

Now rated 170 over fences, Hewick returned for his first run of 2023 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, no less.

He was 40/1 there but Gainford had him nicely positioned when they fell at the second last, seemingly still with running to give.

Back at Sandown the following month, a bet365 Oaksey Chase was added to his CV – this time with Rachael Blackmore on board for a trainer credited with giving the 'Queen of Cheltenham' her big break in the racing game.

Appearances at Auteuil in May for a French Champion Hurdle attempt and Galway in the defence of The Plate brought disappointment and a sense from the Shark that conditions had gone against him but, after five months off, Hewick was to return at Kempton on 26th December 2023 and deliver the most prestigious win of his career to date in the King George.

Gold Cup the target again

After the King George win, the Shark declared that Hewick 'is a better horse on good ground' and pinned his colours to another crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 15th March.

His stable star is 14/1 to win in the Cotswolds, with defending champion Galopin Des Champs now 11/8 after his Savills Chase demolition over Christmas for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

"Straight to Cheltenham now," said the larger than life trainer. "It's probably the wrong race as he should go for the English National, but there is only one Gold Cup."

Plenty will be writing Hewick off if he goes back to the Cotswolds and, in all probability, his trainer wouldn't have it any other way as he loves proving the doubters wrong – something he was sure to point out at Kempton on Boxing Day with a wide grin on his face as he poked fun at Ruby Walsh's punditry skills.

"I was watching a programme in the week and Ruby knocked him and I said: 'We're flying now' because every time Ruby knocks him we win!"

The story of Hewick is surely not complete just yet, not by a long shot.

Horse Racing

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