John ‘Shark’ Hanlon says Hewick is “better than he ever was” – but will make a last-minute decision on whether or not the American Grand National winner will run in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.
The eight-year-old shot to prominence when landing the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April last year and followed up winning the valuable Galway Plate.
He then looked poised to add the Kerry National at Listowel to his CV, only to unseat Jordan Gainford at the last. But he earned compensation when taking the American Grand National at Far Hills, Maryland.
He has not run run since that success in October and after his final piece of work on the sands at Woodstown Beach in Waterford on Sunday morning, Hanlon was more than satisfied with his preparation.
However, while he is not cowering at the prospect of taking on the likes of Irish Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs, last year’s victor A Plus Tard and King George hero Bravemansgame in the blue riband, he is concerned about the potential for soft ground this week.
“We’re just coming off the beach and he is in great old form,” said Hanlon. “We just have to keep him fresh now.
“The ground is the only thing. That’s the only thing I’m afraid of. I’m hoping you won’t get a lot more rain over there.
“He is a much better horse on good ground and he’d handle good ground where other horses wouldn’t.”
Hewick is also entered for the Randox Grand National at Aintree on April 15, where he is due to shoulder joint-top weight of 11st 12lb along with last year’s runner-up Any Second Now and dual Grade One winner Conflated.
Hewick is a general 20-1 for the Gold Cup and 25-1 for the Grand National, and the Bagenalstown handler says he would not mind which race Hewick won, though his chance would improve with a sounder surface than is forecast at this week’s Festival meeting.
“You don’t want to leave his race at Cheltenham with the National only four weeks away,” added Halon.
“We have to think of everything. But we are bringing him over on Wednesday morning and we’ll make a decision on the morning (of the Gold Cup).
“He’s in great form and I think he is better than he ever was. Everything went well with his preparation.
“Any of the two races will do us now. The National is something you dream of all your life, but a Gold Cup would be very special, so if we could be placed in it, we’d be very happy.
“The Gold Cup is the purists’ race, while the National is the people’s race – and he’s the people’s horse.
“He has a lot of weight for the National, but he’s carried a heavy weight everywhere he went before and he managed it, so I’m not over-worried by it.”
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