‘He’s got the biggest heart’: horse who cost just €850 wins dramatic King George VI

  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Learn more
  • There was shock and triumph in the Ladbrokes King George VI results at Kempton today (26 December) with relative outsider Hewick taking the spoils.

    Trained by Irishman John Joseph “Shark” Hanlon and ridden by the in-form Gavin Sheehan, Hewick, who went off at 12/1, secured victory despite looking beaten in the earlier stages of the race and hitting an in-running high of 550/1.

    “If it wasn’t the King George, I probably would have pulled him up,” Gavin told ITV Racing. “I knew he stays and stays and I wasn’t able to get going. There’s only a certain amount of questions you can ask and if they aren’t answering, you can’t ask.

    “Shark said before he’s probably the smallest horse here but he’s got the biggest heart. I was absolutely delighted when I was told that Shark was getting me on Hewick. It was a no-brainer.

    “To come here and do it like that was just amazing. I’m gobsmacked – that’s a King George and it’s not a race easy to win.”

    Hewick’s victory for owner T J McDonald has added to his impressive CV, which includes wins in the Durham National, bet365 Gold Cup, Galway Plate, Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills and Oaksey Chase. It is a remarkable roll of honour for a horse who cost just €850.

    “I told Gavin that Hewick would stay all day,” said Shark. “They went very hard at the front and he struggled to lay up with them, but he stays all day. Gavin and the horse were amazing. We’ll go straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup with him now.”

    Last year’s winner, Bravemansgame, finished second under Harry Cobden for trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Bryan Drew, one-and-a-half lengths adrift of Hewick.

    “He ran a lovely race,” said a visibly disappointed Harry afterwards.

    Paul Nicholls said of Bravemansgame: “Harry (Cobden) said he was getting a bit of toe from the other horse (Shishkin) for as long as he could then the other horse had an unfortunate incident, and that interfered with him and that stopped him dead and cost him any chance then.

    “He has run a good solid race. It is a case of ifs and buts. He was staying on strongly again and picked up the crumbs. I’ve never doubted that he stays. He is better on better ground. We will get him fresh and well now and go to Cheltenham.

    “I don’t think he needs to go to Newbury as he has had three hard races. Unfortunately, he got stopped dead in his tracks today, but you can’t make excuses as incidents happen and he wasn’t good enough on the day.”

    13/8 favourite Allaho finished a head behind Bravemansgame in third for trainer Willie Mullins, jockey Paul Townend and owner Cheveley Park Stud.

    There was total disbelief when the well-fancied Shishkin, who is trained by Nicky Henderson, stumbled and unseated Nico De Boinville just after the second last. The multiple Grade One winner started the race without mishap having refused to race last time out, and looked well in contention to take the win until the incident.

    A very dejected Nico said after the race: “I’m very proud of the horse and these things happen.”

    Nicky Henderson says he still plans to send Shishkin to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. Speaking of the unseat of Nico, Nicky said: “I think they say, ‘that’s racing!’

    “I was delighted with him until then. To be fair Nico and I had discussed the start [of the race] at length but we hadn’t really discussed the rest of the race. But he was having a good time, he was jumping great.

    The Real Whacker was fourth under Sam Twiston-Davies, while fan favourite Frodon gave Bryony Frost a great round of jumping, but ultimately finished a distant fifth.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits. 

    You may like...