Following his victory in the American Grand National, Hewick is a 33-1 shot to complete an unlikely “rags to riches” racing story in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
The seven-year-old that cost just €850 when bought by trainer “Shark” Hanlon secured his latest big pot when routing the opposition in Saturday night’s $250,000 American Grand National in Far Hills, New Jersey.
Afterwards, an emotional Hanlon paid tribute to Jack De Bromhead, the 13-year-old son of trainer Henry De Bromhead, who was killed in a fall while pony racing in Co. Kerry last month.
“We’re all thinking of him. My young lad, Paddy, that led up the horse [Hewick] was his best friend, and he cried there, and said ‘this is for Jack,” Hanlon told US media.
The popular Co Carlow trainer’s faith in his bargain buy was vindicated once again on Saturday as jockey Jordan Gainford guided Hewick to an 11-and-a-half length defeat of local hope, Noah And The Ark.
The Irish hope was a 2-1 second favourite for the US jumping’s most prestigious prize behind the local hope Snap Decision who finished out of the frame.
It cost an estimated $20,000 to transport the horse to New Jersey but the gamble paid off in style with a $160,000 first prize.
Having landed the Galway Plate during the summer, and a major handicap prize at Sandown in April, Hewick’s career earnings are approaching half a million Euro.
Now bookmakers reckon he could line up in steeplechasing’s Holy Grail, the Gold Cup itself. Paddy Power make the horse 33-1 for Cheltenham.
Perhaps not since the 100-1 shot Norton’s Coin won the Gold Cup in 1990 has there been a more unlikely prospect, but Saturday’s result confirms Hewick’s capacity for confounding expectations.
“Everyone was saying the trip was too short and we were maybe wrong to come here. But this horse has an awful lot more pace than people think he has. He proved that at Galway and he definitely proved that today,” Hanlon said on Saturday.
“I’ve never had a horse anywhere near as good as this one. For a trainer like with a small yard, he’s brilliant,” he added.
Hewick isn’t the first cheaply bought horse transformed by Hanlon. Last year, the ex-Willie Mullins trained Skyace, bought for even less than her stable companion, won a Grade 1 race at the Fairyhouse Easter festival.
Gainford (21) successfully maintained his partnership with the horse on Saturday and the Wexford rider said: “They could have anyone over here to ride him but in fairness they brought me over and I really appreciate that.
“When he hits the front he doesn’t do much. He just loves galloping. He’s a relentless horse to gallop really.”
There was other Irish success on the Far Hills programme with Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell combining to with both The Insider and Ted Hastings. Elliott landed the American Grand National in 2018 with Jury Duty.
Jockey Sean Flanagan also entered the winner’s enclosure on Saturday night on board local horse Redicean.
Elsewhere in the US, Jessica Harrington’s Paris Peacock failed to make the frame in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup in Keeneland on Saturday. The Florent Geroux ridden filly faded behind the Chad Brown trained winner Gina Romantica.
Noble Yeats, winner of the most famous “National” of all in Aintree last April, was pulled up on his return to action in Auteuil on Saturday.
The Emmet Mullins trained star was pulled up by rider James Reveley in the early stages of a Grade chase at the Paris track after blundering the second obstacle. Noble Yeats was reportedly unscathed afterwards.