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    Hanlon Aims for Sunny Skies as Festival Showdown Looms
Hanlon Aims for Sunny Skies as Festival Showdown Looms
Image courtesy of The Irish Field 

Hanlon Aims for Sunny Skies as Festival Showdown Looms

John 'Shark' Hanlon is banking on favourable ground conditions ahead of the upcoming Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup, as Hewick, his King George champion, prepares to take on the defending titleholder, Galopin Des Champs.

Last year, Hewick suffered a dramatic fall just two fences from the finish line in his Gold Cup debut, allowing Galopin Des Champs to claim an impressive victory. Since then, Galopin Des Champs, trained by Willie Mullins, has displayed exceptional form, triumphing in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown this season.

Nonetheless, Hewick has also been on an upward trajectory, culminating in a stellar performance to win the King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Hanlon is now eager to capitalise on a potential weakness in Galopin Des Champ's armour by competing on a sounder surface at Prestbury Park.

Hanlon calls attention to the fact that weather conditions play a crucial role for Hewick, desiring good ground rather than the soft conditions experienced last year. The horse is currently in excellent form, having recovered well from the King George.

Hanlon plans to have Hewick undergo training in a schooling bumper at Naas on Wednesday, following a successful strategy employed before the King George. While Hewick is currently priced at 16-1 for Gold Cup glory, Hanlon believes the race will have an open feel, with any of the ten contenders capable of securing victory.

Hanlon acknowledges the dominance of trainers like Willie Mullins but expresses concern about the impact on the sport if only a handful of yards house all the leading contenders. He believes that smaller trainers need support to ensure a vibrant racing scene and prevent a decline in interest from the audience.

The recent Dublin Racing Festival showcased Mullins' dominance, with his yard winning all eight Grade One races at the meeting. However, Hanlon suggests that more attention should be given to larger handicaps to attract a wider audience.

He also mentions the high costs associated with travelling horses to England but expresses his willingness to explore opportunities across the border to increase his chances of success. Ultimately, Hanlon highlights the importance of providing opportunities for smaller trainers and maintaining a competitive racing environment.

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