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Robbie Power

Galway was Robbie Power’s target.  Give the injury time, do the rehab, get yourself right for Galway.

It was a legitimate target too.  Back injuries are not easy, but they are an unfortunate constituent in the National Hunt rider’s reality.  They deal with them like normal people deal with grazed knees.  And there was sufficient time between his fall at Ballinrobe at the end of May and the start of the Galway racing festival at the end of July, Robbie Power figured, for him to get back to full fitness on time.  He gave his injury the time and, under surgeon Paddy Kenny and with expert guidance from Enda King in Santry, he did the work. 

“The more work I did,” says the rider, “the stronger I felt.  The more my confidence grew.”

This back injury was a new one on Power, an undisplaced fracture of his T7 vertebrae, unrelated to the L3 and L4 that he did in another fall before Cheltenham.  The Ls are at the bottom of your back, the Ts are up at your shoulders, and they are all serious.

Power got back to race riding the week before Galway.  He rode at Kilbeggan and he rode at Ballinrobe.  He rode a winner for Tony Martin at that Ballinrobe meeting the week before Galway, Nibiru in the maiden hurdle, after which the trainer asked the rider if he would ride Tudor City in the Guinness Galway Hurdle. 

“I wasn’t sure if I would be free or not.  Jessie had Light That entered in the race, but we weren’t sure if he would get in or not.  I called my agent Ciaran O’Toole on the way home from Ballinrobe and we kicked it around.”

He also called Niall McCullagh, who had ridden Tudor City on the flat at Leopardstown on his last run before Galway, and he spoke highly of the horse.  He hadn’t had a lot of luck in-running at Leopardstown, he told Power.  He’d give him a great spin. 

Light That didn’t get in, and Power committed to Tudor City.  A couple of days before the race, he went down to Tony Martin’s to have a sit on the horse.

“I had never ridden him before, so Tony was keen that I would have a sit on him beforehand.  That was important, to get a feel for the horse before the race.  Tony had him in great form.” 

With Tudor City, you take your time.  Back in the field, ridden for a late run, and passing horses.  That’s what he enjoys.  The last thing that Tony Martin said to the rider before he despatched him from the parade ring was, ride him for luck.  Down the inside if you can.  If it happens, it happens.  If it doesn’t, that’s the way it goes. 

“It’s great when a trainer gives you that sort of confidence,” says Power.  “It means that you can go and ride your race, do the right thing, give the horse every chance, ride for the breaks.” 

It also helps when you have a rider with the ability and the confidence and the race-riding nous that Robbie Power has.  He kicked off back in the field and along the inside, a ground-saving and an energy-saving ride.  He had hoped to sit fifth or sixth, not second last or last, and there was a point, early in the race, when a gap appeared and he could have ridden him into the gap to take up a position just behind the front rank. 

But the early pace was not overly strong, and he thought that, if he rode him into the gap, it would light the horse up too much.  His horse could expend too much energy through the early throes of the race, energy that he would need on the run back up the hill from the final flight.  So he sat still, towards the rear of the field, got his horse settled and jumping, and hoped that the breaks would come.

“They didn’t go a great gallop early on, but they started racing from a fair way out, and that helped us.  He travelled well for me down the hill and we got a lovely split between Hearts Are Trumps and Golden Spear.  Tony had said to me, if the gaps open up, he’ll have the pace to fill them.  You couldn’t ride every horse like that.  The gaps don’t stay open for very long, you have to have a horse who has the pace to move into them when they do open.”

Band Of Outlaws was just in front of him as they faced up to the final fight.  Power trained his sights on the favourite and asked his horse for his effort.

“I went to go outside J J Slevin on Band Of Outlaws, but he went a bit to his left, so I switched to go inside.  On the run-in, I knew that we had Band Of Outlaws beaten.  I was surprised how much the leader Due Reward found, but my horse was strong.” 

They hit the front 50 yards from the winning line, went on to win by a half a length, and Power punched the air.

“It was a great feeling, to win the Galway Hurdle.  I was lucky enough to win it before on Missunited, but it’s a massive race to win, and I suppose coming back from injury like that made it even sweeter.  It was great for the horse’s owner too, John Breslin, he loves to have winners at Galway, and it was some training performance by Tony Martin.  He’s some man to have a horse at his peak for a big day.” 

Big day for all.

© The Sunday Times, 4th August 2019