|Wednesday 27th April 2022
Talking points from the jumping racing finale at Sandown
Just like that, another jumps season has been and gone. The last few months have certainly been enjoyable for horse racing fans, and you only need to look at the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National at Aintree to see that things lived up to expectations. It was the first year since 2019 that the season was able to run as normal, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing a lot of rescheduled races and social distancing making races take place either behind closed doors or with a reduced capacity.
It was refreshing to see packed-out stands at Aintree and Prestbury Park earlier this year, punters frantically checking the odds to bet on horse racing exchange, but with attention about to turn to the flat racing season, there was still the final meet at Sandown. Scores were settled, awards decided, and lots to dissect. There were plenty of things to discuss as the curtain closed on the campaign, so read on, as we take a look at some of the main talking points from the jumping racing finale at Sandown.
Hewick on fire in the Gold Cup
It was a good end to the season for Shark Hanlon and Jordan Gainford as the Irish duo won the Sandown Gold Cup with Hewick. The seven-year-old, who was pulled up in Uttoxeter for the Boulton Group Midlands Grand National, came back with a bang to see off Musical Slave and favourite Kitty's Light and pick up the win in Grade Three. Hewick will need to show more consistency next season, but two wins from his last three races will certainly give his team some belief he can pick up further spoils in 12 months’ time.
Paul Nicholls: Champion Trainer
What a season it’s been for Paul Nicholls. He and Nicky Henderson have battled it out for the British accolade over the last decade or so, and it’s Nicholls who has won the Champion Trainer for the season having captured the title for the 13th time.
Nicholls admitted it was a harder competition this time around, but was happy with his performances throughout the year. "It's been tougher [to win the big races] this year but every year is tough. In recent years I've either been neck and neck with Willie (Mullins) or Nicky (Henderson), but this year it's a bit more relaxed and I can enjoy the day," he said.
"I might have turned 60 recently, but there are absolutely no thoughts from me about retiring. I love what I'm doing and as long as I'm fit and healthy, I've no plans to cut back - I love it."
A day for the favourites
A recurring theme of the Cheltenham Festival was that of the favourites tasting victory in frustration of the bookies, and similarly to Prestbury Park and the Scottish Grand National, it was 3/1 favourite Knappers Hill who was victorious in the Novices' Championship Final Handicap Hurdle. Many thought we were in for a shock when stablemate Rouge Vif started brightly, but jockey Harry Cobden — who rode four of Nicholls' winners at Sandown — was quick to prevent any kind of upset. Closest to them ended up being Nube Negra but after a slower start Harry Skelton gave himself too much to do.