Shark Hanlon described Hewick as a “horse of a lifetime” as the Irish handler contemplates another assault at American Grand National success later this year.

The nine-year-old continued his fine run of form when he came a narrow second in the French Champion Hurdle in Auteuil on Saturday.

This came on the back of victory in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and, although he missed the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National due to unsuitable ground, he turned in an impressive third behind Fastorslow and Galopin Des Champs on his return to Ireland in the Punchestown Gold Cup earlier this month.

Hanlon is planning a similar route for 2025 to what had been in place for this year, but he looks set to add a trip to Far Hills in New Jersey before the end of 2024 in a bid to reclaim the American Grand National which he won by a huge 11 and a half lengths in October 2022.

“He goes back up to TJ (owner TJ McDonald) in Naas and will get eight weeks off, and then we are thinking about going back to America for that race we won two years ago,” he said.

“From there, we will probably look at the same routine as last year – the King George, up to Cheltenham, maybe for a National this year – I’ll have to discuss with the owners.

Horse of a lifetime

“He’s a horse of a lifetime. His run at Punchestown was against two of the best Irish and English horses, probably, and then we go to France and get beat. I think he’s entitled to win more of those pots some day, whenever it is.

“He needs that three and a half miles, it is very hard to get those races. That’s the story with him.”

The weekend’s display left Hanlon waxing lyrical over his stable star, who performed admirably despite unfavourable very soft ground at the Paris track.

Hewick was in third when he flew over the final obstacle behind Mahler Mission and Losange Bleu in the extended three-mile-one-furlong contest.

He managed to get past his Irish rival in the closing stages and homed in on leading French raider Losange Bleu, but the post came too quickly for Hewick as he finished one and a half lengths behind the winner.

Hanlon is adamant that Hewick would have won if there was half a furlong further in the Grade 1 race.

The soft ground wasn't to suit

“He’s in great form, he never missed a nut and we are thrilled,” he added. “We are disappointed to get beat, but absolutely thrilled.

“I think the soft ground down the back beat him. Like when he met the good ground up the straight he travelled very well the whole way home, if there had to be another 100 yards I think he would have nearly got up.

“He just needs to be able to handle the soft ground like the good ground, he goes on it but he is just much better on good ground.

“Down the back the other day was soft, he (jockey Jordan Gainford) said he kept changing his legs the whole time, but then when he met the good ground up the main straight, he said he galloped straight up the straight for him.”