On The Fringe to make it day to remember for JP McManus

Katie Walsh will do her best to douse the sentiment on board Wonderful Charm

Financially the Foxhunters is always the festival’s poor relation but it will be a priceless result should On The Fringe win it for the third year running and prove the centrepiece of a potentially glorious St Patrick’s Day for JP McManus.

Two of the legendary owner’s final day festival team of 14 may be running in the Gold Cup – and Defi Du Seuil might look something of a Triumph Hurdle standout – but even in such circumstances sentiment still allows On The Fringe stand apart.

Some great hunter chasers have graced Cheltenham over the years but On The Fringe has already proved to be in a different league again.

No horse had ever completed the amateur Triple Crown at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown prior to JP McManus’s star pulling it off during an epic six weeks in 2015. A year later he did it again.

It’s a huge “ask” at 12 to expect On The Fringe to pull off a Triple Crown hat-trick in 2017 but presuming he won’t is something only the very brave or very stupid are likely to do.

The one Cheltenham difference this year is that Nina Carberry's pregnancy means Jamie Codd is on board which is hardly a negative given the form he's in and the experience he now has of the veteran star.

It could also be a mistake to focus on age though. Remarkably, On the Fringe first ran in this race in 2011, finishing fourth to Zemsky. He was third in 2014 before then seeming to get a new lease of life over the last two years.

Trainer Enda Bolger insists he sees no evidence of deterioration and that was emphasised with a sparkling return to action at Leopardstown when it was only in the closing stages that On The Fringe gave best to the high class – and race fit – Foxrock .

Racecourse form

Foxrock’s jockey Katie Walsh will do her best to douse the sentiment on board Paul Nicholls’ Wonderful Charm. He boasts decent racecourse form but nothing superior compared to Foxrock.

Given the usual luck in running it all points to On The Fringe having an excellent chance of again moving centre stage on St Patrick’s Day.

Defi Du Seuil will be joined by another McManus runner, Charli Parcs, in the Triumph Hurdle, a race in which the half-dozen Irish trained hopefuls look to face a tough task.

However Defi Du Seuil has proved a revelation over flights this season, winning five times, including three times at Cheltenham, and without ever looking seriously challenged. It’s a profile to reckon with.

His trainer Philip Hobbs will also hope to strike with the McManus colours when No Comment lines up towards the bottom of the Martin Pipe Conditional Handicap. That could be very dangerous for his 23 opponents as the best looks yet to be seen of this horse over flights.

No Comment beat the Albert Bartlett contender Monalee in a Punchestown bumper last season and comes here on the back of a couple of easy wins at lowly Plumpton. The McManus team also have Castello Sforza in this but No Comment looks their number one.

The festival’s most successful ever owner will also be keeping his fingers crossed that last year’s Triumph hero Ivanovich Gorbatov could bounce back to winning form in the County Hurdle.

It's always difficult for five year olds mixing it with their seniors and Ivanovich Gorbatov has had to contend with top notchers such at Petit Mouchoir and Nichols Canyon this season. Back in handicap company, and with a useful 5lb claim, Ivanovich Gorbatov can prove a real contender again.

Death Duty is highly regarded enough by Gordon Elliott to make opposing him in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett seem very presumptive. The new three mile trip shouldn't be a problem. Yet Death Duty hasn't raced on ground as quick as this before which is niggling doubt at relatively short odds.

Augusta Kate was upsides him at Naas when falling, is assured to go on the going and gets the hugely valuable mares allowance.

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