Things We Learned » Power surge

Power surge

March 2017: some month for Robbie Power.

The rider started the month with one Cheltenham Festival winner on his CV and ended it with four.  He started it knowing that he had never even ridden in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and he ended it with the trophy on his mantelpiece.  Then, in the glowing embers of the month, he lands a job with one of the top owners in National Hunt racing.

The highs are always higher when they come in the wake of lows.  It is only last summer at the Galway Festival that Power got a kick in his left eye that fractured his eye-socket, which led to fears that his career could be over.  And it was just at the end of January this year that he ruptured a disk in his back.

He returned in the middle of February to land the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sizing John, and to go close in another Grade 1 race on the day, the Flogas Novice Chase, going down narrowly to Disko on Our Duke.

You can’t underestimate the importance of Sizing John’s win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in convincing Ann and Alan Potts to offer Robbie Power the job as their rider.  If someone won your Cheltenham Gold Cup for you, you’d probably offer them a job too, if you had a job to offer, which the Pottses had. 

But it can’t have just been about winning the Gold Cup.  It had to have been the whole package, about how he rode Sizing John in the Gold Cup, about the plan that he had and the manner in which he executed it.  Alan Potts told the Racing Post on Wednesday that his rider told him what he was going to do, then he went ahead and did it.  That’s all very fine as long as what you say you are going to do is the right thing to do.

It was.

And Supasundae in the Coral Cup.  And Rock The World in the Grand Annual can’t have done any harm.  And the no-nonsense rider that Robbie Power is.

Power rode Silver Birch to win the Grand National a decade ago.  That season (2006/07) he rode just 17 winners in Ireland.  The number of winners that he has ridden in Ireland has increased season-on-season for the last six: 20, 29, 30, 31, 41, 42.  He has ridden 37 winners in Ireland so far this term and, all things going well, he is on track for his best ever season.  And that’s just numerically.  That doesn’t include the three winners at Cheltenham, a Gold Cup and a Coral Cup and a Grand Annual, two for Ann and Alan Potts, all three for Jessica Harrington.

That’s more winners than Power has ever ridden in a season in Britain too, and that’s before he went to ride two horses for the Pottses and Colin Tizzard at Taunton on Thursday and before he takes up an appetite-whetting book of rides at Aintree next week. 

Welcome winner for Tizzard

Speaking of Colin Tizzard and March and Taunton, when Valhalla won the two-mile handicap hurdle at the Somerset venue on Thursday, he was registering the trainer’s first win in the month of March.

That is not necessarily a true reflection of the state of things.  While some of the Tizzard horses were a little disappointing last month, many of their races were in the white hot Cheltenham heat, including Native River, who ran a cracker to finish third in the Gold Cup, and Fox Norton, who failed by just a fast-diminishing head to catch Special Tiara in the Champion Chase.

Also, Leg Lock Luke would surely have won had he not veered sharply to his left and unseated his rider on the run-in at Taunton two weeks ago.

It could be a big week for Tizzard at Aintree next week.  It would be a good time for his horses to be running back into form.

Respect the Road

 One addendum to the Cheltenham fallout from last week: the performance that Road To Respect put up in landing the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (the old Mildmay of Flete) on the Thursday. 

The Noel Meade-trained gelding travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out for Bryan Cooper.  Despite making a fairly significant mistake at the first fence, he travelled into the race well, took up the running from Baron Alco on the run to the second last fence and stayed on strongly up the hill to post an impressive victory.

Of course, this was just a handicap and the Gigginstown House horse was racing off a mark of just 145 and carrying just 10st 13lb, but he still clocked a faster time than the time that Un De Sceaux clocked in the Ryanair Chase 80 minutes earlier, and he probably would have gone faster than Yorkhill would have gone in the JLT Chase earlier in the day, if the JLT had been run over two miles and five furlongs, like the Ryanair and the Plate.

Road To Riches’ new mark of 153 could still under-rate him.  Out of a half-sister to the same connections’ Road To Riches, and by the Gold Cup third’s sire Gamut, he has always been held in high regard by his connections.  This was a career-best by some way, but it is rarely a bad thing if you put up your career-best at the Cheltenham Festival.  The good ground and the Festival conditions obviously conspired to bring out the best in him.

Meade had mentioned the RSA Chase as a potential Festival target for Road To Respect, and he is obviously bred to stay three miles or perhaps more.  He is only six and, with just six runs over fences under his belt, there is no telling how high he could go.

Pricing up the National

It is easy to frame the market for the Grand National.  Just start with the horse who is best-in on handicap ratings and work your way down.

Definitly Red is 10lb well-in, Vieux Lion Rouge is 6lb well-in, Blaklion is 4lb well-in.  They are the first three in the market.  Saphir Du Rheu is 6lb well-in, More Of That is 2lb well-in.  There are five of the 10 horses that are priced up at 20/1 or lower right there. 

Strange time of year

Strange time of year this.  You’re trying to catch up on Cheltenham videos and get your head around the Irish Grand National and the Aintree Grand National and the rest of Aintree, and Punchestown is not so far away.  At the same time you’re trying to determine Arrogate’s place in the pantheon of greats (it’s always a pantheon of greats), and ascertain how far forward Aidan O’Brien’s horses are, and remember what won the Dewhurst.

Next year, they’re going to finish out the National Hunt season before they run the first race on the Flat. 

No they’re not.  April Fool.


© The Irish Field, 1st April 2017