As the years pass by at breakneck speed, we’re now approaching a century since Golden Miller became the only horse in history to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season.
In 2023, there will be a handful of racehorse owners looking to end that lengthy wait for a second, with Hewick – acquired for just £800 by his connections – without doubt the most intriguing of the bunch.
The eight-year-old has campaigned in the UK and Ireland, with his best day on the track on these shores arguably coming when he landed the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park and the Galway Plate in a stellar 2022 season.
In October, the John ‘Shark’ Hanlon trained stayer went and won the American Grand National at Far Hills too, landing owner TJ McDonald a rather handsome £100,000 pay day.
All told, Hewick has trousered more than £400,000 in career prize money for his connections – not a bad return on investment considering the initial £800 outlay – and Hanlon is hopeful yet more cheques could be in the mail.
“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,” Hanlon said.
“I think he’s improving the whole time and his next step is the Gold Cup.”
After returning from their American adventure, Hanlon took Hewick to his local pub for a pint. As you do.
The eight-year-old is available at around 20/1 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post betting market, with a price of 16/1 available for the horse to prevail at Aintree in the Grand National a few weeks later.
The early declarations for the 2023 Grand National have been made, with just 31 of the 85 horses on the longlist trained in Great Britain. Irish entries dominate the potential field, with Gordon Elliott declaring 21 alone at this earliest possible stage prior to the April 15 showpiece.
It’s yet another demining indictment of the state of horse racing breeding and training in Great Britain, with BHA handicapper Martin Greenwood describing the situation as indicative of the ‘demise of the British National Hunt scene.’
The situation hasn’t been aided by the absence of Iwilldoit, the Welsh Grand National winner who has failed to meet the requirements of six runs over fences prior to the February 19 cut-off.
Chris Morgan, director of the Diamond Racing syndicate, confirmed that the ten-year-old won’t qualify for Aintree after a planned run at Newbury this weekend was scuppered by the fast ground.
“With Iwilldoit coming back into training later than normal this season due to an issue after he won the Welsh Grand National, the decision was made by Sam Thomas and ourselves not to run him on unsuitable ground,” Morgan confirmed.
“The welfare of our horses is always at the forefront of what we do.”
The current ante post favourites for the 2023 edition are defending champion Noble Yeats, two-time Grand National placer Any Second Now and Ultima Handicap Chase victor Corach Rambler.