It’s On The Line stakes claim to top hunter chaser spot

It’s On The Line asserted his credentials to be the best hunter chaser in Britain & Ireland in another narrowly won victory in the Event Power Champion Hunters’ Chase at the Punchestown Festival on Friday. 

The J P McManus owned gelding is, to all intents and purposes, a professionally trained horse, in the care of Emmet Mullins, and ridden by Derek O’Connor, the leading Irish amateur. However, he’s a horse that makes life hard for himself, and is aptly named.

Re-opposing from Cheltenham in this race were Ferns Hill, Billaway and Samcro, with Famous Clermont the sole British contender. Second only to Sine Nomine in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, It’s On The Line had gone one better at Aintree, only asserting over Benny’s Hill in the last half furlong, enough to be sent off 6/4 favourite here. Vaucelet, winner and runner-up in each of the last two renewals of Stratford’s Pertemps Network Foxhunter, was also in the field.

In murky conditions and in demanding ground that encouraged 5 of the 14 runners to pull up, Samcro led largely unchallenged for the first two-thirds of the race, before being joined by Famous Clermont, under James King from the 9th fence. It’s On The Line remained in touch, some 5l adrift as the two leaders slugged it out in front.

Samcro was first to crack, allowing Famous Clermont to take up the running, but as they turned in, Lifetime Ambition hoved into view with the favourite, and two out, any one of the three might have won. Lifetime Ambition got away from the last in front, but Derek O’Connor showed why he is the leading amateur, conjuring up a tremendous burst of finishing speed to assert 100 yards from the post. the winning distance of 1 3/4l was growing with every stride.

Emmet Mullins told RTE, “He doesn’t make life easy but Derek has the trick to him. Early doors it wasn’t great as Derek had to make a move to get him off the inside and get him travelling.

“I was very happy the whole way around until the third last and there was a bit of a panic when Lifetime Ambition went on. Once he got over the second last I was always fairly confident he was going to get him back.”

O’Connor added, “He’s an amazing horse. He’s just doing enough to stay alive all the time but every time you ask him, he brings a little bit more for you.

“To be fair, I never really got serious with him until after I jumped the last, I just wanted that company. Susie Doyle rode a brilliant race (on Lifetime Ambition) and she’s unlucky in defeat.”

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