Staker Wallace was forced to work harder than might have been expected for the short-priced favourite to get his head in front in the Clifford Groundcare Hunter Chase at Killarney on Monday evening.
Sent off as the 4/7 favourite on what was a relatively quick turnaround from his third-place finish in the Champion Hunter Chase at last month’s Punchestown Festival, Enda Bolger’s King’s Theatre gelding sat mid-pack as Some Man set the pace under Barry O’Neill.
Jamie Codd, fresh from announcing his decision to retire from point-to-points 24 hours earlier at Tattersalls, moved his mount It’s All Guesswork through to take over the lead along the back straight on the final circuit and with Warriors Tale, who had already survived a serious error on the opening circuit, and Some Man attempting to follow the move coming out of the back, Derek O’Connor found himself in a pocket on the inside around the home bend.
However, once a gap opened up, the ten-year-old was able close with his challenge and it was in between the final two fences that he was able to take control of the race, but had to be ridden out by O’Connor to confirm a five and a half-length victory over Denise Foster’s dual point winner with Cork Hunter Chase winner Warriors Tale weakening in the straight, and he ultimately trailed in a further 25 lengths adrift in third.
For Staker Wallace it was just a second success under rules following his first at Limerick over Christmas before going on to run any number of creditable races in defeat this term – often behind Billaway including when third at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The winning Limerick trainer, who was enjoying a double on the card, admitted that it was not his charge’s best performance:
“He needed all of Derek’s help today, it is the end of a long season for him. He has come up against Billaway a few times in Heavy ground so it is grand to finish on a good note and he will have a nice summer out on grass in Martinstown now.
“At some of the fences he was just dwelling a bit in the air and wasn’t really letting flight, I’d say a summer’s grass and all his muscles will be back to normal.
“He always runs a good race and never lets us down. He has been around a while now, he always come up to the plate but often meets a better one, but I’m delighted that he is finishing on a good note.”