Hewick became the sixth Irish-trained winner of the Grade Three bet365 Gold Cup (3m 5f) at Sandown Park today, bet365 Jump Finale.
Partnered by talented conditional Jordon Gainford for trainer John “Shark” Hanlon, the 16-1 chance headed long-time leader Step Back (33-1) three fences from home and was never looked in danger of being caught thereafter, coming home eight lengths clear of the staying-on Musical Slave (5-1) with 4-1 Favourite Kitty’s Light another half-length away in third. Step Back took fourth, a further 16 lengths back.
The previous Irish-trained winners of the bet365 Gold Cup were Church Island (2010, Michael Hourigan), Jack High (2005, Ted Walsh), Life Of A Lord (1996, Aidan O’Brien), Drumlargan (1983, Edward O’Grady) and the great Arkle (1965, Tom Dreaper).
Shark Hanlon said: “It’s great and we were probably a bit unfortunate at Uttoxeter (in last month’s Midlands Grand National). I thought we had the winning of the race and the grey horse carried him out and in fairness to Jordan he just sat up and pulled him up. He said he was sorry as he thought we’d have won and I replied ‘don’t worry, we’ll win at Sandown.’ It was his first run of the season at Uttoxeter and he was a very expensive horse again costing £800!
“All he does it stay. The family bred the first winner today too (Knappers Hill), so it’s been a fantastic day. He was a very good walker and I love a good walking horse. He could walk and I said at the price he’s the price of a cow!
“I went and had a few quid on him as when he got in the ring he started pouncing and I’ve never seen him as well. My own young lad Paddy (who’s 14) has been out riding the horse for the last three days and it was all good rides. Paddy is pony racing at the moment and rode 10 winners last season, so there’s every chance he’ll be on this horse in the future. I asked him whether he’d like to ride this horse up the hill in this race and he said ‘it would be a dream for me, dad’ – so we’ll have to get back here someday.
“He’s going to have plenty of weight wherever he goes but he’s a tough little horse and he’s a summer horse as he won’t handle soft ground. The ground on the last day was soft enough which wouldn’t have been ideal. We’ve nothing planned, but all those long distance chases would be on the radar, he’ll probably end up as a National horse at some stage. I think he’s tough and you have to have a tough horse for the National and while he’s not fast he’s got plenty of gears. He’ll jump out there like a two mile horse but he’ll stay the whole way.
“The plan was to go home this evening, but the plan just changed!”
Owner T J McDonald added: “I can’t believe he won so well. His odds were a bit crazy during the week at 33-1, I kept saying to myself that he can’t win it but the more I looked at it with the race cutting up, I thought he could. I didn’t actually have a penny on him believe it or not but the prize money is alright so we’ll take that!
“It’s great for everybody that’s here. It’s a big race for us and especially for the yard. I want to say thank you to everyone in the yard who works hard and to Jody McGarvey and Shane Fenelon who rode him before. This is my biggest win by far, it used to be a big deal for me having a runner at home on a Saturday in a handicap, never mind coming here in a Grade Three at one of the biggest meetings of the year. I’m delighted.”
Philip Hobbs, trainer of runner-up Musical Slave, said: “It was very much another good effort in defeat today. He has run well here before.
“He didn’t have any penalty today (for last time out win) so he was entitled to do what he did today as long as he kept his form from last week as you never know sometimes when you run them two weeks running. We are very pleased with him.
“The way he has run you wouldn’t think the quick turnaround has had any impact. He had a nice easy contest when he won here three runs ago and maybe that helped and he was good at Haydock. He ran well on his first start this season when he nearly got brought down at the second last at Exeter when he would have nearly won. I’m delighted and think there is a race like this in him.”
Christian Williams, trainer of third-placed Kitty’s Light, said: It was a great run from Kitty’s Light. I thought he travelled well in the cheekpieces and is definitely one to look forward to next year. He has run in all those good races and will do again next season. We might put the camera down him and check his wind before next season. He has won us over £100,000 without winning a race this season which isn’t bad.
“I’m not sure what we are meant to do with Win My Wings (who fell when staying on two fences from home) now. We will speak to the handicapper but if he has no intentions of helping us we might have to retire her but we will speak to the owners and see. She has walked back in fine. Rob (James, jockey) said the weight might have told and the ground might have been a bit dead for her.
“Cap Du Nord (who finished fifth) maybe doesn’t quite stay this trip. He jumped nicely and picked up some nice prizemoney and the owners have had a good day out. We might stick to keeping him to places like Kempton that really suit him.”