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Press Release 20th February 2024 Aintree



Trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon has admitted his superstar horse Hewick “probably deserves” to be given top weight for this year’s Randox Grand National after handicapper Martin Greenwood handed him a rating of 169 and 11st 12lb to carry.

The nine-year-old is bidding to become the first horse for 90 years – since Golden Miller in 1934 - to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season.

And if he is to do so he must carry more weight than any of his 33 rivals when the Aintree spectacular takes place on Saturday 13th April.

Hanlon said: “I knew he’d have top weight. You have to expect that. He probably deserves top weight.

“I think the trip will suit him. He’s going for the Gold Cup first and please God he comes out of the Gold Cup safe and if he does he’ll definitely head there (to Aintree).

“It’s a mighty day. It’s one of those days you look forward all year to. The National, the Gold Cup and the King George at Kempton – they’re the three big days in England aren’t they, so it’s great to have a runner there.”

Hewick was discovered in a local sale “five minutes down the road” and famously cost his owner TJ McDonald just €850 (around £800) but has already won more than £600,000 in prize money.

While Hanlon is still pinching himself he insists Hewick has always been targeted at the Grand National. He continued: “We always said that he’d be a National horse and there’s a month between the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the National this year so I think it’s a big opportunity for him.

“The most important thing is that he gets good ground. With fewer runners in the race this year there won’t be quite as much weight between us and the horses at the bottom. In previous years the difference could be a fair bit more and we’d be giving more away.

“He won the Galway Plate off nearly top weight, he won the bet365 (Oaksey Chase at Sandown Park) off a big weight. It’s not that he’s not used to carrying top weight and he carries it very well.

“All is great with him and he couldn’t be better. I’m very, very happy with him.”

County Carlow-based Hanlon admits he has been presented with something of a jockey dilemma going into Cheltenham and Aintree, with three riders having won high profile races on his stable star in the last 18 months.

Jordan Gainford was on board when he landed the American Grand National, a hurdle race at Far Hills in the US, in October 2022.

Since then Rachael Blackmore has won the Grade Two bet365 Oaksey Chase at Sandown Park on him and Gavin Sheehan partnered him to a memorable victory in the prestigious Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day last year.

Talented Gainford is currently on the sidelines after fracturing vertebrae in a fall at Naas in December. But he could be back in the saddle again next week and Hanlon says he is close to deciding who will ride Hewick at Cheltenham next month and at Aintree in April.

He explained: “I haven’t spoken to Jordan in the last fortnight but we’ll be making up our mind this weekend, probably for both races.”


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