He would become one of the youngest winners of the Champion Hunter Chase in a feat that has still yet to be repeated, On The Fringe’s success in the 2010 Punchestown feature at the age of just five, came less than a month after he had opened his account at Lisronagh.
That opening victory on March 28 2010, and his subsequent Punchestown success, is the spotlight for our P2P Rewind feature.
The son of Exit To Knowhere had not been cheaply bought, as John O’Byrne had acquired him for €47,000 as a foal at the Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt Sale
in 2005, four years prior to his competitive bow for Enda Bolger, in a four-year-old geldings’ maiden at Dromahane in December 2009, when finishing a very creditable third.
This opening season would see him rapidly rise through the ranks, as he entered the five-year-old geldings' maiden
at Lisronagh, the third run of his life, having finished fourth to the subsequent dual Grade 1 winner, Last Instalment, at Lemonfield in early March of 2010.
Having been a beaten favourite on that occasion at Lemonfield, he was sent off as an easy-to-back second favorite at the Tipperary venue, where it once again looked like it would be a Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner, who would provide his biggest challenge, with the Pat Doyle-handled Don’t Care For It, jumping off at the top of the market in the 17-runner race.
With Nina Carberry taking the mount aboard him for the first time, the pair raced up with the pace throughout, but once she brought him to the front with half-a-mile to race, he was able to pull clear once the challenging Whatnow Whatnext came a cropper at the fourth-last fence, spacing out the runners in behind.
Foot-perfect fencing, something that came to be a mark of his track career, was already evident, with the commentator on the day, none other than the now leading Bloodstock Agent Tom Malone, describing: “as he opens his account with a big jump at the last.”
That saw him pull 15 lengths clear for that initial success, with Who Broke Me, and the late Jack Tyner chasing him home in second, and Ballyvoneen and Roger Quinlan back in third.
That season’s Hunter Chase division had largely been centred around Kilty Storm, after the connections of Down Royal winner, Agus A Vic, elected to take their chance in the Irish National, where he put up a big effort in finishing fifth to Bluesea Cracker.
Kilty Storm, who had claimed that year’s Raymond Smith Memorial at Leopardstown, only found Nigel Twiston Davies’ Baby Run too good when finishing second in the Cheltenham Foxhunters.
With Baby Run, who had won the Punchestown race 12 months earlier, not electing to defend his 2009 Punchestown title, after parting company with Sam Twiston Davies in the Aintree equivalent, the race had been perfectly set up for Kilty Storm.
That experience from Lisronagh in a big field certainly stood to On The Fringe, as he was one of 25 horses to feature in the 3m 1f race, and could well have had his race brought to a premature ending, when he was hampered in the first fence melee, which saw Huncheon Wells, Lasquini Du Moulin and Hi Cloy all departing.
In his customary style, John Thomas McNamara steadily regained the lost ground in what proved to a very strongly run contest, thanks to the efforts of the favourite and Rapid Artist.
Swinging in, McNamara had positioned On The Fringe in fourth, and always travelling best of the protagonists, he ultimately went on to win by a length and three quarters over Kilty Storm, with Good Egg back in third.
“They just went so fast but John Thomas used his head," said Bolger following the success.
"He won his point to point at Lisronagh three weeks ago, Nina rode him and thought he was brilliant."
"We decided to give him his chance with more experienced horses today but we never thought he'd win, we'd have been delighted if he finished in the first five or six."
The prospect of a five-year-old winning the Champion Hunter Chase now may seem unfathomable, with the Hunter Chase scene so often associated with veteran horses, but his success came at a time when many younger horses came to the fore in the big Punchestown prize.
In the 11 years preceding On The Fringe’s initial success, the Champion Hunter Chase was won on five occasions by horses aged just seven, kickstarted in 1999 by Castle Mane.
He was followed by What Odds (2003), Just Cassandra (2004), General Montcalm (2005) and Agus A Vic (2008).
That Punchestown success at five catapulted On The Fringe onto the Hunter Chase scene in no uncertain terms and began a golden spell for Irish Hunter Chasers which saw him feature alongside the likes of Salsify and Tammys Hill in achieving Cheltenham Festival success.
Keep an eye out on P2P.ie, as in the coming weeks we will look back on that era and celebrate their successes.