An undoubted star of the three-day Aintree meeting, was Ireland’s Robbie Power.
It’s proved to be an incredible period for the popular jockey, yet he looked set to miss much of it, when struck down by a serious looking back injury at the end of January. At first, his participation in the Cheltenham Festival seemed in doubt, but thankfully Power was back in action in no time, and onboard Sizing John, when the young chaser advertised his Gold Cup credentials, in the Irish version at Leopardstown in February.
Several weeks later, the jockey arrived at Cheltenham in his role as Jess Harrington’s number one, and captured the main prize. Sizing John was part of a treble during a thrilling Festival, with Supasundae taking the Coral Cup, and Rock The World winning the Grand Annual. The victory in the Gold Cup for owners Ann and Alan Potts secured the jockey his spot as retained rider, and he certainly made the most of it at Aintree.
Sporting the famous green, yellow and red silks, Power made a huge impact at Liverpool for trainer Colin Tizzard, first causing an upset on Pingshou in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle. The seven-year-old had finished down the field in the Supreme, but bounced back to form with a four-length success over Malcolm Jefferson’s talented youngster, Mount Mews. He galloped powerfully to the line, and looks to have the stature to make a nice chaser next season.
Power then had a dream ride on the impressive Fox Norton. He ran-away with the Melling Chase, thrashing Sub Lieutenant in the process. He’d only just failed to land the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, and this step-up in trip appeared to suit. Tizzard’s chaser looks to be progressing at a rate-of-knots, and may well be one for the King George next Christmas, with the owners having Sizing John for the Lexus Chase in Ireland. Power may have to forego the Turkey and Christmas pud.
Sizing Codelco was something of a bonus on Saturday, but Finian’s Oscar looks the real deal. The jockey had the opposition covered turning for home in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, and the five-year-old stayed on powerfully for a three-length success. There’s every chance he’ll be sent over the larger obstacles next season, with Power then having the prospect of riding Finian’s, Foxy and Sizing John. He must be licking his lips in anticipation.
Arguably his greatest achievement in the saddle, was riding Silver Birch to victory in the Grand National of 2007. The son of an Irish show-jumper, he became champion conditional jockey in 2004, and though better known for success in Ireland, he did partner Boston’s Angel to victory in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival of 2011 for Jess Harrington.
His top-level victories on home soil have been numerous, and include Grade 1s on Jezki, Big Zeb, Oscars Well, and twice on Boston’s Angel. He also partnered the Harrington trained Our Duke to victory in a Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. It’s this staying chaser, not risked at Cheltenham, that could prove a realistic challenger to Sizing John next season. Power will hope that the pair can be kept apart during the winter, though a clash looks inevitable at some stage, with Our Duke appearing to be this year’s outstanding staying novice in Ireland.
The man from Meath has Fairyhouse and the Punchestown Festival still to look forward to, before a well-earned summer break. He’ll then be counting down the days, desperate to get back aboard several of the best horses in training, and dreaming of yet another winter to remember.