On The Fringe will take the first step towards a potential “triple hat-trick” of top hunter chase prizes when he returns to action at Leopardstown next month.
The hugely popular JP McManus-owned star was labelled "the people's horse" by jockey Nina Carberry last April after completing a clean sweep of the top hunter chase races at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown for a second year running.
On The Fringe officially turned 12 on January 1st but veteran status hasn’t persuaded bookmakers he doesn’t remain the outstanding performer in his sphere and the horse is a clear 7/2 favourite for the first leg of the Foxhunters Triple Crown at Cheltenham in March.
Before that he will be back on familiar ground when making his return to action at Leopardstown on Stan James Irish Gold Cup day in just over four weeks' time.
On The Fringe has run in the race five times already, winning on the first occasion in 2011 before being placed on three occasions and finishing only seventh a year ago. Despite that, he subsequently bounced back to his best at Cheltenham to confirm himself the outstanding hunter chase performer of his generation.
"We're not going to change anything from last year. He will go straight to Leopardstown and then we'll try and to do it all again," confirmed On The Fringe's trainer Enda Bolger, who dismissed any concerns about time taking its toll on the festival hero.
“I’ve seen no signs of it. We’ve had a good run with him and we’re still trying to get a bit of weight off him. I’m delighted with him. He’s a good age for a hunter. They last if they’re good and he only really has three races a year. He’ll go to Leopardstown on February 12th,” Bolger added.
With Carberry expecting her first child and taking a break from race-riding, Jamie Codd will have the responsibility of steering On The Fringe this season. Codd was on board when Carberry was suspended for Aintree’s Foxhunters over the famous National fences last April.
Immediate plans for another McManus star, Gilgamboa, are less clear although a return to Aintree for another crack at the Grand National ultimately looks the objective for the former Grade One winner.
Gilgamboa followed up a narrow defeat in the Frotria Chase when brought down three out in the Hilly Way at Cork behind Douvan a month ago.
“The National is in our minds again but it’s a question of what races he might run in before that. There’s no real plan at the moment,” Bolger said.
One of the latest McManus-owned Grade One stars is the Drinmore-winner Coney Island, who has more top-flights success in his sights at the spring festivals. Prior to that, however, Leopardstown’s Flogas Novice Chase could be on the agenda.
Make a plan
"We've not really made a plan for him yet. There's the race in Leopardstown, the Cheltenham races and then Fairyhouse and Punchestown. You can't do them all so we'll sit down and make a plan in a week or so," said his trainer, Eddie Harty.
“He has speed enough for two-and-a-half miles and you could go three miles with him again. He’s not one-dimensional and all options are open to him. You can enter him up and make a decision on which way you go closer to the time,” he added.
Coney Island finished runner-up to Our Duke in the novice Grade One over three miles at Leopardstown on the final day of the Christmas festival.