Hewick could head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup following his famous victory in the American Grand National at Far Hills in New Jersey.
Ridden by his regular pilot Jordan Gainford, the Shark Hanlon-trained seven-year-old made amends for a final-fence blunder in the Kerry National when bolting up by 11 and a half lengths in the States and follows in the hoofprints of Brain Power (2019) and Jury Duty (2018), who have both made successful raids across the Atlantic in recent years.
It was the third big chasing pot the bargain €850 buy has won this year following success in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and the Galway Chase in July, and his County Carlow handler was delighted with his “right little horse”.
“He bolted in,” said Hanlon. “He’s a right little horse, he’s a little dinga. It was great for Irish racing, great for English racing, it was good for everything. Everything just went to plan, and I was amazed by the way he jumped – they are different fences to anywhere else.”
This time last year Hewick was winning the Durham National at Sedgefield and exactly 12 months on his popular trainer is dreaming of Cheltenham Festival glory following a successful trip to New Jersey.
He will now be trained with the Prestbury Park blue riband in mind after a well-deserved rest following his exertions over the last 12 months.
“I think he’s improving the whole time and his next step is the Gold Cup,” continued Hanlon, who paid an emotional tribute to the late Jack de Bromhead in his post-race interview.
“From now on he’ll be trained as a Gold Cup horse, and I might not run him between now and the Gold Cup. We’ll see, he might have one run and I haven’t made up my mind, we’ll just see how he comes along.
“But he’s going to get a good break now until after Christmas and then we’ll train him for the Gold Cup – maybe he’ll get a run some time in February, we’ll just have to see.
“It’s been some journey since he won this day last year in the Durham National. He’s brought us a long way and please God it doesn’t stop here.”
For Hanlon it has been a fantastic experience to take Hewick to the other side of the Atlantic and the handler talks of his disbelief that the seven-year-old appears to have developed a cult following in America.
Hewick’s remarkable rise to Gold Cup contender
October 2017 – Bought for €850
Sept 2020 – Wins over hurdles at the 12th time of asking at Kilbeggan, rated 94
June 2021 – Wins on chase debut at Clonmel
October 2021 – Wins Durham National at Sedgefield as 3/1 favourite, rated 142
April 2022 – Wins bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown at 16/1, rated 149
July 2022 – Wins Galway Plate at 16/1, rated 155
October 2022 – Wins $250,000 American Grand National at Far Hills
He also provided a little glimpse into what the Stateside celebrations were like, with the Hanlon team joining forces with Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House ensemble as they enjoyed a double on the Far Hills card.
“I met people who had driven three or four hours to see Hewick because of his profile over the last couple of months, I couldn’t believe it,” he explained. “It’s been amazing, Rachel (partner) and the two kids are here and we’re having a ball. You should see the crowds that are there, even after the race.
“We spent two hours there, Gordon and his team and ourselves, we all joined up together and we had plenty of food and plenty of drink for everyone – it was great for Gordon to have a double on the day, too. Three Irish winners on the big day was amazing.
“It was an unreal day and unreal night – it was mighty. We didn’t let the side down anyway.”