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O'Connor excels again aboard Its On The Line

Its On The Line (nearest) reels in Lifetime Ambition Its On The Line (nearest) reels in Lifetime Ambition
© Photo Healy Racing

The 6/4 favourite Its On The Line repeated last year's success in the Event Power Champion Hunters Chase.

Derek O'Connor 's mount, successful at Aintree after being narrowly denied at Cheltenham, was on and off the bridle as usual and looked held between the final two fences as Lifetime Ambition went for home under Susie Doyle.

The Presenting gelding had plenty more in the locker, though, and reeled in Lifetime Ambition on the run-in for a length and three quarters victory.

“Derek came back in and said there's not much point in instructions as he's a unique animal,” said winning trainer Emmet Mullins.

“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.

“He's very well named, that's not the first occasion he's done that. He's just a horse that you have to hold his hand and bring him along, he's got a big engine.

“We were putting cheekpieces on trying to keep him in races and help him to travel but he needs to see everything, the more he sees the happier he is.

“We don't really need a bit in his mouth, it's just a bit of company and he'll keep going with them.

“As I said after Aintree to have a horse like him and be able to rock up to these festivals, Cheltenham, Aintree or Punchestown, with a horse with a chance of winning is very hard to come by.

“I don't think we'd ever replace him if we stepped him up to go back 'on the track' now.”

O'Connor said on RTE: "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.

"This horse is just hard to beat, he keeps finding for you.

"We get wiser as we get older. I'm learning the traits with him. He was starting to come back underneath me turning in, whether it was the crowd or the loneliness I'm not sure, but the minute he felt company he raced all the way to the line again.

"I think if I could have Cheltenham all over again, if I knew back then what I know now about him, I think we'd make a clean sweep of it."

About Mark Nunan
Mark has followed racing since he was a teenager and worked for many years as a broadcaster with the Irish version of Racecall. He joined the Press Association in 2019 and is also a contributor to the Racing Post. A native of Kildare, he now lives in Sligo.