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King George Review: Shark promises more from Hewick

Trainer Shark Hanlon immediately set his eyes on another go at the Cheltenham Gold Cup after Hewick stormed up the Kempton home straight to land an unlikely King George VI Chase win.

Hewick was last of the King George field for most of the journey around Kempton in the Boxing Day showpiece and traded at more than 500/1 in running, but a dramatic finish saw Gavin Sheehan's partner come flying home to deny last year's winner Bravemansgame and favourite Allaho in the final 100 yards.

Shishkin, meanwhile, had looked to be grabbing the race by the scruff of the neck only to slip after the second last and unseat Nico de Boinville.

Hewick the last man standing for Shark

The colourful character that is John 'Shark' Hanlon had spent Christmas Day with his family at Kempton awaiting the big race for Hewick.

An incredible purchase for connections at €850, he's won an American Grand National, a bet365 Gold Cup and Oaksey Chase at Sandown, a Galway Plate and, now, a Christmas cracker in the King George for his maiden Grade 1 win.

It didn't look plausible for much of the journey as Sheehan's partner was outpaced and left in rear.

Indeed, the rider conceded he might have thrown in the towel at one stage bar it was the King George. 

His perseverance was rewarded in the dying embers of the contest. 

Hewick appeared to be still travelling with plenty of enthusiasm close-up when he fell three out in the Gold Cup last season and, for his trainer, that remains the only show in town this spring with Hewick now a 16/1 shot for the Gold Cup on 15th March. 

"On a tougher track it will be a better job for him, but we are here today and he won which is amazing," said the elated handler at Kempton.

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

What might have been for Shishkin

Shishkin had refused to race on his intended comeback at Ascot last month but it was a different story here.

Nico de Boinville had to roust him along early but the Nicky Henderson-trained enigma really warmed to the challenge.

He was dominating the second half of the race, taking over from Frodon in front, and appeared like he had them all on the stretch going to the second last.

He jumped it well, but was desperately unlucky on the landing side as he appeared to inadvertently trip himself before slithering and depositing his rider on the floor.

Henderson and de Boinville will be left to ponder what might have been, some 30 minutes or so after Constitution Hill had sauntered to glory in his second Christmas Hurdle win.

Shishkin certainly didn't appear to be wanting for stamina at the point he departed. He's 12/1 for Gold Cup glory in March and now 8/1 for the Ryanair Chase.

Bravemansgame foiled, Allaho toiled

So impressive in winning this race a year ago, Bravemansgame was a game second this time – powerless to stop the wet sail of Hewick late on, but gutsy to hold off favourite Allaho on his inside nonetheless.

Both Bravemansgame and Allaho suffered some interference when Shishkin came down and, briefly, it was Paul Townend on the latter that appeared the likely winner jumping the last.

Harry Cobden and Bravemansgame came back at them as a 14th King George for trainer Paul Nicholls loomed, but Hewick had other ideas.

Bravemansgame poked his head back up for second close to the winning line. They were clear of The Real Whacker in fourth and Frodon a long back in fifth. 

Allaho remains 3/1 favourite to win a third Ryanair Chase on 14th March at Cheltenham for Willie Mullins after what was a gallant effort on his second run back from a long absence.

Bravemansgame is 20/1 for that same 2m5f contest in the Cotswolds should his trainer consider a drop in trip, while he is 16/1 to go one better in the Gold Cup itself in the spring after chasing home Galopin Des Champs last season.

Given he had his momentum checked by Shiskin crucially, and got going to again to rally for second, connections have reason for optimism that Bravemansgame could yet be good enough to land the Blue Ribband at Cheltenham.

Indeed, many connections of the King George protagonists will have exited Kempton Park on Boxing Day with plenty of food for thought after a remarkable renewal of the Christmas showpiece. 

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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