Gavin Sheehan is set to partner Hewick for the first time in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Trainer Shark Hanlon was on the lookout for a new rider for his stable star, with his regular partner Jordan Gainford sidelined by injury.
Rachael Blackmore stepped in to steer the eight-year-old to victory in the Grade Two Oaksey Chase at Sandown in the spring, but is set to be in action at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, while Brian Hughes was on board Hewick on his latest outing in the Galway Plate but is also unavailable.
Hanlon has therefore turned to one of the most in-form jockeys in the weighing room in Sheehan, who won last month’s Coral Gold Cup at Newbury on Datsalrightgino and last week produced a similarly brilliant ride when guiding Fugitif to a last-gasp victory in the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
“We’re just after sorting it this (Thursday) morning – Gavin Sheehan is going to ride,” said Hanlon.
“I know he had the chance of a good book of rides somewhere else, so I wasn’t sure if he’d ride him or not, but he came back this morning and said ‘the horse has as good a chance as any other horse in the race and I’d love to ride him’, which is great.
“He’s a jockey in great form, he knows the track and he knows the English horses, so it’s great to have him on board.”
Hewick has enjoyed a fairytale rise through the ranks, winning the bet365 Gold Cup, the Galway Plate and the American Grand National during a whirlwind 2022 campaign.
He was well beaten when last seen in action defending his Galway Plate crown in August, but Hanlon is delighted with his condition ahead of his festive return.
He added: “He went to the local point-to-point track this morning as the ground is beautiful and he jumped 12 fences. All the work is done, I just need to get him there now.
“I’ve been on to the shipping crew, who tell me the winds are due to die down on Friday night, so we’re booked on the boat on Saturday morning.
“He’s in right good form. It’s his first run of the season, which you’re always afraid of, but he runs well fresh so fingers crossed.
“Allaho is the one they all have to beat. It looks like there’s a few in there that like to make the running – I’d say there’ll be savage pace in it – but the great thing about our horse is we can ride him however we want.”
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