HE is called The Shark and he can smell a bargain from miles away.
The latest has brought in ‘unreal’ amounts of cash – but is far from being a one-off.
Meet John Hanlon, the ultimate shrewd Irish trainer who turns unwanted horses into money-making machines.
The latest off the production line is Galway Plate winner Hewick.
Bought for just £800, Hewick prevailed in a truly jaw-dropping end to the big Irish race last week.
Hemmed in by a loose horse in a contest full of carnage, the seven-year-old gelding kept running to just deny Darasso in an all-time thriller.
Victory for the 16-1 shot brought in a whopping £136,000.
That came just three months after Hewick pocketed £90,000 for connections with victory in the bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Sandown.
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Millions and millions of pounds can change hands in the split-second world of horse auctions.
But the story of how Shark bought Hewick couldn’t be further from that.
He told The Irish Field: “I went down to Goresbridge horse sales to see another horse but when I landed down he wasn’t there.
“Then I saw this horse towards me and I hadn’t a clue what number he was – and knew nothing about his sire.
“I knew nothing about him at all.
“I went home, got a cup of tea and I said to my partner Rachel, ‘I’m going back down, I saw a horse. Maybe he’ll come worth the money and if he didn’t, I’ll buy him’.
“I went back down and bought him for £800.
“We thought a ot of him as a four-year-old. We ran him in three point-to-points and one day a young lad fell off him and he fell himself another day.
“I let him out in the field and let him strengthen and he just took time.
“Patience. Now it pays.”
Shark has a history of unearthing top talent in the unlikeliest of places.
He is the man who gave Rachael Blackmore her big break as a jockey.
Shark saw Blackmore ‘getting the rides that no one wanted’ and struggling to make a name for herself.
He then persuaded her to turn pro, promised he would support her all the way… and shared the glory when she started banging in winners a couple of months later.
A few years on she would become the first woman to win the Grand National and be crowned top jockey at Cheltenham Festival.
But it’s the horses Shark is most famed for.
Before Hewick’s heroics came wondermare Skyace.
TURNS BARGAIN BUYS INTO CASH MACHINES
A Willie Mullins cast-off, Shark paid just £600 for her in November 2019.
Given 313 days off since her last run, Skyace won first time out for her new boss in June 2020… then won again the following month.
When October came round she won a Group 3 worth £18,000, then a Listed race worth £11,000 at outlandish odds of 66-1 and 28-1 respectively.
A spirited fourth-place at Cheltenham in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle then preceded a Group 1 win worth £54,000 at Fairyhouse in April 2021.
From that £600 outlay Hanlon brought in more than £100,000 for connections.
And now he is dreaming of even greater riches in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – and maybe even the Grand National.
Shark reckons Hewick has what it takes to be entered in jump racing’s most prestigious contest next March – won last year by A Plus Tard for just over £350,000.
He told the Racing Post: “He could be a Gold Cup horse, it might just suit him.
“When you have a good horse you need to try and mind them.
“He’s not overly big, so the National fences might not suit him just yet, but he’s only seven so he could still go for a National in time perhaps.
“We got [last]Wednesday out of the way and we’ll take anything that goes after that.”
If history is anything to go by then he’ll be taking plenty more big cheques home too.
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