LIKE a scene from Jaws, the unsuspecting Brits never saw the shark coming.
With Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott aiming for Punchestown, our top coaches probably thought it was safe to get back in the water.
But they had a bad shock with John ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s 16-1 shot Hewick picked them one by one to win the Bet365 Gold Cup.
The result proved life-saving for the bookmakers, as the defeat of well-backed Paul Nicholls Enrilo meant they avoided an all-out bloodbath, despite the champion coach’s superb 410-1 fivefold.
For County Carlow-based Shark, who earned the nickname as a teenager as he towered over all the other kids on his hurling team, it was a well-executed long-term plan.
Hewick had been featured for Sandown’s £160,000 feature, and the way he rode the race under rising star Jordan Gainford suggested he was set for his life.
The peloton had thinned out by the time they reached third last, with the majority of riders feeling the pinch at the business end of a heavily raced 3m5f.
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But Hewick still ran, and while the brave Kitty’s Light tried to mount a challenge between the last two fences, he was never able to put a glove on the winner.
The celebrations will no doubt have lasted long into the night, with Hanlon joking, “The plan was to go home tonight, but the plan just changed!”
The larger-than-life trainer, who was tasked with giving Rachael Blackmore her big break, is making a habit of winning big pots with horses out of the basement.
Last season he won a Tier 1 hurdle with £600 purchase Skyaceand he bought the thrilling Hewick for just £700.
Hanlon smiled, “It cost the same as a cow!”
“It’s great, we were probably a bit unlucky at Uttoxeter in the Midlands National when he was practically executed and Jordan lifted him.
“He said he was sorry because he thought we would have won and I said ‘don’t worry we’ll win at Sandown’, and that’s a race we had in mind for a long time.
“He will have a lot of weight wherever he goes next, but he likes decent ground and he stays well, so maybe he will be a Grand National horse.
“He was bouncing around the ring, I had never seen him so good, so I went to give him a few pounds.
“We love going home with the Queen’s money!”
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It wasn’t a bad day at the office either for 13-time champion coach Nicholls as he returned home to Somerset with five wins and another coach’s crown in the bag.
His big race acca was headlined by the impressive Greeneteen (11-8), who raced in the 1st year celebratory pursuit.
Knappers Hill (3-1) got the ball rolling in the first, before Saint-Calvados (EVS), McFabulous (4-1) and Sam arrives (10-3) made it a fabulous five.
Nicholls said: “It’s a great way to end the season, there are good prizes here and the horses have liked the ground.
“It’s been another good year for us, we won a lot of big races, although we had a bit of a drop in form in the middle of winter.
“Greeneteen looked like a real horse today. He’s not getting the credit he deserves.
“He’s won a Tingle Creek and two of them now. That day he’s very good, he wasn’t beaten by a long shot in last year’s Champion Chase. It was awesome.
“It’s great to get a win over these horses, they’re all talented and they just had one or two things that didn’t go well this year.”
Nicholls is now within two of Martin Pipe’s record 15 coaching titles, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
He added: “If you win the Championship, like a football team winning the Premier League, you want to win it again.
“It’s great for the whole team, it’s our goal every season, to retain the title. Once you get the taste, you don’t want to stop – and we don’t intend to Stop.”
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