CORK trainer Eugene O’Sullivan has announced that Ritchie McClernon will replace his daughter Maxine when his charge It Came to Pass bids to retain the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham on Friday March 19.
The recent decision not to allow amateurs ride at the Festival was met with disappointment by many in the sport but despite rumours that Maxine was ready to become a professional in her bid to take the ride that was discounted by Eugene.
“Despite the profile of winning at Cheltenham Maxine is staying as an amateur as our point to point horses are very much part of our operation and in a nutshell, she is an integral part of that,” said Eugene O’Sullivan.
The euphoria last year when Maxine shocked the racing world with a 66/1 winner was at fever pitch but this year the odds are far slimmer with many of the leading bookmakers making him It Came to Pass an 8/1 shot.
“Preparations have gone to plan, and he is good form but look to win at Cheltenham many things must go right on the day, but I am confident Ritchie will be a good partner for him,” added O’Sullivan.
The Lombardstown trainer is indebted to his daughter in the manner she has adapted to handling and riding the horses in his stable.
“Maxine was always involved in horses and racing is our life, but I’d prefer it if she just enjoyed the horses and had an education to fall back on.
“When horses are in your blood its hard to get rid of it and Maxine is so dedicated in everything she does.”
Maxine despite not making to the Cotswolds on this occasion will now concentrate on proceedings while Dad makes the trip on his own to Cheltenham.
“Racing was all I knew as a kid and Dad was very good with me as he never pushed me or discouraged me and just helped me all the time,” said Maxine O’Sullivan.
Maxine added: “I think he would have been happier if I had gone to college and done something away from horses, but he’s always been very supportive of what I do.
“God, I definitely wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today if it wasn’t for my Dad and I was very lucky to have him.”
In the words of Eugene it will be a long and lonely journey to Racing’s biggest National Hunt Festival but another win will certainly make the return journey that little bit shorter.
“I will be in Cheltenham on Tuesday night but I will not be allowed into the course until Friday and lets hope we can put our city and county on the map again.”