Hewick handed Liverpool Hurdle option at Aintree

By Sports Desk April 08, 2024

King George hero Hewick has emerged as a surprise contender for the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle, with trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon keen to keep options open with conditions at Aintree currently testing ahead of the three-day Grand National meeting.

Famously acquired for just €850, the nine-year-old’s rags-to-riches tale as seen him become one of the most popular horses in training and he has picked up prizes such as the Galway Plate and American Grand National en route to becoming a bona fide Grade One operator.

After striking at Kempton on Boxing Day, the wet weather has already scuppered Hanlon’s plans to run Hewick in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Randox Grand National itself this spring and the continued rainfall has seen him searching for a Merseyside alternative to running in Thursday’s Aintree Bowl.

However, the County Carlow handler has no concerns about switching to the smaller obstacles, unwilling to expose his stable star to what could be the worst of conditions on Thursday.

“We know he is as good a hurdler as he is a chaser and I’m not worried about running him over hurdles,” said Hanlon.

“We ran him in the French Champion Hurdle and he ran a cracker, the ground was just too soft and if the ground was too soft there at Aintree on Thursday and we didn’t run him, it gives us the option to run him there on Saturday.

“They are giving the weather to dry up from Tuesday on and the ground could be good again on Saturday, so if the ground was OK we would run him.

“I’ve had it in my mind for the last fortnight and he wouldn’t mind a bit of cut in the ground over hurdles, it’s just that he’s not over big himself and over fences I would be afraid he would burst his heart trying to jump out of heavy ground, which over a hurdle he won’t. It’s not that he has to have good ground, it is just that a fence looks very big to him on soft ground.

“He’s in great form and he’s worked nice. We’re just going to wait now and see and it might be that (hurdles) division this year might not be overly the best. I just have to keep all my options open.”

There are a total of 20 entries for the three-mile Grade One with Stayers’ Hurdle champion Teahupoo one of four possible runners for Gordon Elliott alongside defending champion Sire Du Berlais, Irish Point and Beacon Edge.

Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up Flooring Porter will bid to turn the tables for Gavin Cromwell, while fellow Irish raider Buddy One could seek a first Grade One victory having also acquitted himself well at the Cheltenham Festival.

Fergal O’Brien’s Crambo is among the British hopes, with dual Coral Cup winner Langer Dan taking the leap into deep waters for the trainers’ championship-seeking Dan Skelton.

The Turners Mersey Novices’ Hurdle could see record buy Caldwell Potter make his debut for Paul Nicholls, with a collection of talented novices, including Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Slade Steel, amongst the 24 initial entries.

Meanwhile, there has been little to separate Elliott’s Found A Fifty and Willie Mullins’ Il Etait Temps this season and they could lock horns for a third time in the My Pension Expert Maghull Novices’ Chase – the last of three Grade Ones on the Grand National day card.

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    In a press conference on Monday addressing the abandoned races, SVREL Executive Chairman Solomon Sharpe expressed frustration with the rule, highlighting its potential impact on the racing industry.

    "This rule, unique to Jamaica, imposes a strict five-minute limit after the published post time for races at Caymanas Park," Sharpe stated. "It fails to account for various factors that can delay race starts and penalizes all stakeholders when races are abandoned, affecting punters, jockeys, grooms, trainers, owners, promoters, and the government."

    Last year, Caymanas Park contributed over $260 million in combined taxes to the government's coffers. Sharpe urged the JRC to engage SVREL in discussions on Rule 44, emphasizing the need for constructive dialogue to address the rule's impact.

    "We were not consulted during the initial discussions on this rule, and now, with two races abandoned in a single race day, our concerns have materialized," Sharpe explained. "SVREL is open to collaborating with the JRC to review and refine this amended rule."

    Representatives from the Grooms Association, Jockeys Association, and the United Racehorse Trainers Association echoed SVREL's concerns and supported the call for a review of Rule 44.

    Sharpe concluded by appealing to regulators, stakeholders, and the public to support the growth of the horseracing industry in Jamaica. "Horseracing has immense potential in Jamaica and can become a significant foreign exchange earner. Realizing this potential requires collaboration among all stakeholders."

    SVREL has been operating Caymanas Park since March 2017 after the government divested the property. With investments exceeding J$4 billion in product enhancements and innovations like the Mouttet Mile, which boasts the largest purse in the English-speaking Caribbean, SVREL remains committed to advancing the horseracing experience in Jamaica.

  • Supreme Ventures Racing regrets abandonment of two races at Caymanas Park on Saturday Supreme Ventures Racing regrets abandonment of two races at Caymanas Park on Saturday

    Supreme Ventures Racing & Entertainment Limited (SVREL) has expressed regret and disappointment following the abandonment of two races during the Saturday, April 27 race day at Caymanas Park in St Catherine, Jamaica.

    The decision to abandon these races, SVREL said, was made in compliance with regulations set forth by the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC), leading to the refund of all related pools according to SVREL's Pari-mutuel rules.

    According to the statement released by SVREL late Saturday, the abandonment of races number one and six, respectively, was declared by the stewards of the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) due to delays that exceeded the permitted time frame as stipulated by Rule 44(iii).

    Specifically, in race number one, scheduled to commence at 12:00 pm, a saddling issue with horse number five and a mandatory veterinary check for horse number eight, which reared and fell after exiting the saddling barn, resulted in delays beyond the allowable limit.

    Similarly, race number six, slated for 3:10 pm, was delayed due to a horse running loose, ultimately leading to its abandonment by the stewards of the JRC.

    SVREL explained that the recent amendments to Rule 44(iii), which came into effect from April 1, 2024, mandate strict adherence to race start times with a maximum allowance of five minutes after the published post time. SVREL noted that Jamaica is unique in enforcing such a rule without prior consultation with the sole promoter of horseracing in Jamaica.

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    Despite the challenges faced, the race meet resumed with race number seven at approximately 4:00 pm, SVREL noted.

    SVREL has now issued a sincere apology to valued customers and stakeholders for the inconvenience caused by the abandonment of races one and six by the JRC. SVREL also emphasized its readiness for open dialogue with the JRC and all impacted stakeholders to ensure the continued success and integrity of the horseracing industry.

    As the sole promoter of horseracing in Jamaica, SVREL said it remains committed to addressing challenges collaboratively and upholding the highest standards of professionalism and service within the industry.


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    Kitty’s Light is taking aim at his usual season finisher in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.

    The gelding has been a star for trainer Christian Williams, winning big handicap events like the Eider Chase and the Scottish Grand National and going close in the Charlie Hall and the Coral Trophy.

    He has particularly good record in the bet365 Gold Cup on the final day of the season, missing out only due to interference when second in 2021 and coming home third in 2022.

    Last year he was completed the set of podium finishes when winning by two and a half lengths under usual jockey Jack Tudor.

    The two are well acquainted and teamed up for Kitty’s Light’s Grand National bid at Aintree earlier in the month, where he ran a valiant race to finish fifth behind four Grade-One winning Irish chasers.

    Williams was incredibly proud of his stable star and is now hoping the gelding can shine again in the Sandown contest he has found to be lucrative in the past.

    “It was wonderful, we trained him to win the race and we thought he could, but you couldn’t be disappointed with what he did,” Williams said of the National performance.

    “We were thrilled, the horse tried his best and we were very, very proud of horse and jockey.

    “He’s come out of it very well, if the race was run today even then he’d be running, he’s in good form.

    “He loves it at Sandown with the big fences, his jumping has come on now but even as a five-year-old he nearly won the race.

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    “We’re taking our chance anyway, he seems well and we’ll hope for the best.”

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