Hewick aiming to add famous French chapter for wily ‘Shark’ Hanlon

Hewick, with Jordan Gainford up at Cheltenham (above), would be a popular winner in France this weekend. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

HEWICK has already been the horse of a lifetime for John ‘Shark’ Hanlon and the loveable eight-year-old leads an Irish invasion on France this weekend.

The Irish assault kicks off today with Hewick tackling the Grade One Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil (2.15) under Rachael Blackmore.

‘Shark’ might have thought he was getting away from Willie Mullins, his near neighbour in Carlow, when making the trip across the English Channel, but he thought wrong.

Mullins saddles a quartet led by seven-time Grade One winner Klassical Dream, while his nephew Emmet also runs Feronily in the €400,000 Auteuil showpiece.

The six-year-old has been one of the most ambitiously campaigned horses this season having run in a bumper as recently as three months ago before switching to hurdles and fences – winning a Grade One at Punchestown – and back to hurdles again here. Two-time Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flooring Porter, trained by Gavin Cromwell, is the odd one out of the Irish septet as he isn’t trained in Bagenalstown but he is also a fascinating prospect. There could yet be another chapter in the fairytale story of €850 bargain buy Hewick, though, and he can reward his trainer’s daring French mission.

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, fresh from a big success in Nashville, also combine with Instit in the Listed Prix d’Arles Hurdle (2.50), while tomorrow sees the Closutton trainer aiming to fill a rare gap in his glittering CV.

The Grade One Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (3.05) has long been on his wish list and he sends over a pair of contenders in the shape of Franco De Port, which had his prep race here, and Thyestes hero Carefully Selected.

He may be outdone by Emmet, however, with last year’s Aintree Grand National hero Noble Yeats looking tailor-made for this 3m6f stamina test after another brilliant run when fourth in last month’s Liverpool showpiece.

Sean Bowen’s mount should come home best while his uncle also saddles Zarak The Brave and Gala Marceau in the Grade One Prix Alain du Breil (4.20), which also features Andrew McNamara’s Enjoy The Dream.

Closer to home, Ribchestina is a fascinating prospect for Paddy Twomey and Billy Lee in tomorrow’s Group Three Fillies Sprint (2.45) on a tasty Naas card.