Hewick provided Ireland with another big-race success on British soil when running out an impressive winner of the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
Winner of the Durham National at Sedgefield in the autumn, Shark Hanlon’s charge was pulled up on his return from a break in last month’s Midlands National at Uttoxeter.
But back on a sounder surface for the traditional seasonal finale, the seven-year-old proved a different proposition in the hands of leading Irish conditional Jordan Gainford.
Step Back, winner of the race four years ago, gave a bold sight in front for much of the three-mile-five-furlong journey under amateur rider Lily Bradstock, but was a tired horse turning for home.
As he faltered, Hewick swept to the lead and never really looked in danger of being caught as he galloped all the way up the hill to score comfortably by eight lengths.
Musical Slave filled the runner-up spot, just ahead of 4-1 favourite Kitty’s Light in third.
Hanlon said: “He is a lovely horse. He was very unfortunate at Uttoxeter and but for the loose horse there, I think he would have won.
“He was hitting the front and that is his strong point at home.
“He is a summer horse and he is only starting now. We will see a lot of him over the year in England, though there are no immediate targets.”
Hanlon continued: “He’s going to have plenty of weight wherever he goes, but he’s a tough little horse. The ground on the last day was soft enough which wouldn’t have been ideal.
“We’ve nothing planned, but all those long distance chases would be on the radar, he’ll probably end up as a National horse at some stage.
“I think he’s tough and you have to have a tough horse for the National and while he’s not fast, he’s got plenty of gears. He’ll jump out there like a two-mile horse but he’ll stay the whole way.
“The plan was to go home this evening, but the plan just changed!”
Philip Hobbs believes runner-up Musical Slave will eventually enjoy his day in the sun after failing to follow up a victory at Haydock last week.
He said: “It was very much another good effort in defeat today. He has run well here before.
“He didn’t have a penalty today, so he was entitled to do what he did as long as he kept his form from last week as you never know sometimes when you run them two weeks running. We are very pleased with him.
“The way he has run you wouldn’t think the quick turnaround has had any impact. I’m delighted and think there is a race like this in him.”
Christian Williams, trainer of Kitty’s Light, said: “It was a great run from Kitty’s Light. I thought he travelled well in the cheekpieces and is definitely one to look forward to next year.
“He has run in all those good races and will do again next season. We might put the camera down him and check his wind before next season. He has won us over £100,000 without winning a race this season which isn’t bad.”
Williams also fielded Scottish National winner Win My Wings, who fell two fences from home racing off a 14lb higher mark, and fifth-placed Cap Du Nord.
The handler added: “I’m not sure what we are meant to do with Win My Wings now. We will speak to the handicapper but if he has no intentions of helping us, we might have to retire her, but we will speak to the owners and see. She has walked back in fine. Rob (James, jockey) said the weight might have told and the ground might have been a bit dead for her.
“Cap Du Nord (who finished fifth) maybe doesn’t quite stay this trip. He jumped nicely and picked up some nice prizemoney and the owners have had a good day out. We might stick to keeping him to places like Kempton that really suit him.”