When the BHA Handicapper reveals the Aintree Grand National weights, there’s often a lot of grumbling from trainers who believe their charges have been a little hard done by. None more so than those lumbered with top weight.

That burden has fallen to Shark Hanlon’s stable star, Hewick, for two years running. Both times, connections have scratched him from the race to take their chances elsewhere.

However, that has nothing to do with the 11-12 he has been allocated and everything to do with the going at the racecourse. Hewick is a horse that needs good ground, and when he gets it, he is virtually unstoppable.

That is why, having already won the American Grand National at Far Hills in 2022, the plan is to return there in October and, with any luck, win it again.

His coming season is currently being mapped out with the US as the first stop on what could be an incredible run for the nine-year-old. Hanlon also plans to send him back to the King George VI Chase at Kempton as well as a trip to Cheltenham and, weather permitting, the Aintree Grand National.

So what are his chances of bagging some of the biggest and most lucrative races in the world, all in one season?

Grand National Hurdle Stakes

Two years can be a long time in racing, and a successful trip to America for the Grand National Hurdle Stakes is a gamble. He was seven years old the first time he won it, and while his form is still excellent, younger challengers will pose problems.

That said, the race is only 2m5f and over hurdles, so relative to Aintree, it’s an easier prospect, at least on paper.

The field is also smaller, the racecourse isn’t as intimidating, and the journey doesn’t appear to phase him one bit.

On balance, he has an excellent chance of regaining his crown in October and adding another $250,000 to his career earnings.

Gold Cup or Stayers Hurdle?

Deciding which race to go for at the 2025 Cheltenham Festival will be a big decision for Hewick’s connections. There appears to be two options on the table – the Gold Cup and the Stayers Hurdle.

Interestingly, though, he has only ever made one trip to Prestbury Park: a Gold Cup run in 2023. He was traveling well and vying for the lead two fences out before a heavy fall put him out of contention.

For the 2025 race, Unibet horse racing ante-post odds have him at 50/1 in the betting markets, which is fair considering that Willie Mullins will be aiming for a third win on the bounce with Galopin Des Champs.

Alternatively, Hewick could run in the Stayers Hurdle, where his odds are a more favourable 40/1 ante-post at Unibet. But again, the competition will be fierce and could include Losange Bleu, who beat Hewick last time out in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil in France in May.

King George at Kempton

To say Hewick was a surprise winner in the King George VI Chase on December 26 2023, would be a little disingenuous. But it is fair to say that despite his 12/1 odds, he was overlooked as a real contender when faced with the prospect of battling it out with Shishkin, Allaho, and Bravemansgame.

But he proved that he has what it takes with a brilliant ride from jockey Gavin Sheehan, who steered him from 5th place, three fences out, to victory a little more than 30 seconds later.

Shishkin was a faller, which also disrupted the flow of Allaho and Bravemansgame, but Hewick found fuel in the tank to cruise past both of them en route to the finishing line.

Ahead of this year’s race, he’s as big as 16/1 antepost to repeat the feat, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that you can never rule him out, making those odds quite attractive.

The Grand National

Hewick will get an entry to the Aintree Grand National and will most likely be given top weight again. That doesn’t seem to phase Hanlon, who will be more concerned about the ground.

Should we actually get some decent weather in April (as opposed to the monsoon-like rain we experienced this year), Hewick may very well take his shot.

But has his chance already passed him by? He will be ten years old by the time the race rolls around, and even though that used to be the average age of the winner, in recent years, eight-year-olds have dominated, with 50% of the winners in the last ten renewals coming from that age group.

No horse since Red Rum has won carrying top weight, and ante-post odds of 66/1 suggest that Hewick won’t be the horse to change that statistic.

Conclusion

The interesting thing about Shark Hanlon’s strategy with Hewick is that he rarely runs in the same race twice. Or even, for that matter, at the same racecourse.

Other than in his first season, when he raced locally at Kilbeggan multiple times, Hewick tends to pop up as a surprise entry, but having already run in some of the biggest races around the world, it looks like return visits will be the order of the day for the 2024/25 National Hunt season.

Taking on the American Grand National, the King George VI Chase, the Gold Cup, and the Aintree Grand National in one season is a mammoth ask for any horse.

Even Corach Rambler couldn’t handle the Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season, so maybe Shark Hanlon will re-think his plans as the season progresses.

For now, it’s all systems go, and first up will be a trip Stateside where, hopefully, Hewick can add another win to his already impressive CV.