PAT HEALY: This week Pat reflects on Hewick’s amazing win at the American Grand National and looks back on Champions Day at Ascot.

Hewick’s American Grand National triumph

I’d like to start in America, which hosted the story of the weekend, if not the story of the year. On Saturday night, all eyes in Irish racing were on John ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s horse, Hewick, as he was ridden to success in the American Grand National by jockey Jordan Gainford.

What a story this was – huge congratulations to Shark, Jordan Gainford, owner T.J. McDonald and Shark’s sons Paddy and John, the grooms who travelled there with Hewick. A fantastic success. The horse was bought for only 850 euros, so you just pray that he’ll go on to have success in further big races. I can see a film being made out of this story. He last ran in the Kerry National at Listowel, then three weeks later came home alone to win the American Grand National, still on the bridle!

So, he now goes straight to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup and imagine if he won there! Imagine the craic! Imagine the stampede for the winner’s enclosure! Imagine the poor fellas that will have to hoist The Shark up on their shoulders! Certainly there would be a film made after that, but who would play the Shark? Mind you, he could play himself!

Shark is a fantastic character in the racing game. He is instantly recognisable with the younger generation. He is a great communicator, talks to everybody and has a huge love for the game. Well done to him last weekend and we’ll look forward to seeing what comes next for Hewick.

Ascot Champions Day

I was there at Champions Day this year, which was a fantastic day with a great atmosphere. Of course, it was a shame that Baaeed didn’t win the Champion Stakes, but that’s racing. I have to say fair play to William Haggas, who really stood his ground and gave an interview to every journalist and all media personnel who wanted one. That can’t have been easy for him, but he was so professional and came across as such a gentleman.

Baaeed will still go out as one of the greats. His performance at York in the Juddmonte was fantastic, and his last run will not change the fact that he is one of our greatest horses.

There were some other great stories afforded by the day at Ascot. We had Hollie Doyle and Trueshan who achieved a real feat in being the first pair to win the Long Distance Cup three years in a row. Then there was Frankie Dettori’s double, and, of course, Sir Michael Stoute’s first ever winner at Champions Day in Bay Bridge. All in all, a fantastic day with some great stories. It was a pleasure to be there.

Tinahely Point-to-Point

Last Sunday we saw Samcro back to winning ways at Tinahely. It was great to see the old horse in fine fettle and good nick. He barely came out of second gear the whole way around under Champion Point-to-Point rider, Barry O’Neill. I look forward to watching Samcro progress in the Point-to-Point sphere moving forwards.

Also on the card that afternoon was multiple P2P Champion Derek O’Connor, who had driven three hours from Co. Galway to ride the winner in the opening race: Kilballyowen for Enda Bolger. From there he drove another three hours to Mallow to ride in the bumper. It just goes to show you the hard graft these amateur jockeys put in. A long day for Derek, but certainly worthwhile with the success he achieved.

Racecourse Manager Tom Rudd

Lastly, I’m looking forward to Limerick’s Munster National Day, which will be the first day for their new Racecourse Manager Tom Rudd. Tom is a past Irish Grand National winning jockey and worked for sales company Tattersalls Ireland for years. Best of luck to him going forward in his new role.

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