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Robbie Power

Robbie Power went to Naas on 30th January.  He took a moment to savour it all, back on a racecourse, back race-riding, back in the weigh room. 

It had been a while.

Saint Felicien didn’t win the Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle that day, but he ran well to finish second.  Power was happy with the run, Saint Felicien remains an exciting young horse with a bright future ahead of him, and he was very happy to be back race-riding.

The fall itself at Tramore the previous October didn’t look too bad initially.  Hans Gruber just stumbled on landing over the third last flight and unshipped his rider.  The damage was done by the horses who were coming behind.  Power was kicked in the face and in the hip, broke his nose, broke his cheekbone, tore a tendon in his arm.  A couple of weeks should do it, he said.  A couple of weeks and he’d be back.

After a week though, the pain in his hip hadn’t subsided, and an MRI revealed a fracture that had been missed in the initial diagnosis.  Actually, a couple of weeks wouldn’t do it.  He aimed to be back for the Christmas festivals, he worked hard on his rehabilitation, but he didn’t make it, and that was tough.

“It was the first time in 20 years’ riding that I missed the four days of Christmas,” says Power.  “That was difficult.  It was a different Christmas for me, it was nice to be able to enjoy Christmas Day and Christmas dinner with my family, but from St Stephen’s Day on, that wasn’t easy.  Watching the horses you could have been riding or should have been riding.”

The hardest day though, was the day in November that Bob Olinger won his beginners’ chase at Gowran Park.  Rachael Blackmore, who had ridden Bob Olinger in all four of his hurdle races last season, was at Haydock to ride A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase, and Bob Olinger is owned by Brian Acheson’s Robcour operation, for whom Robbie Power rides.  Saint Felicien, also owned by Robcour, won a novices’ hurdle later on the day at Gowran Park. 

“Brian rang me after racing that day,” says the rider, “which is a measure of the man that he is.”

Power was back riding out in the first week in January, and he worked on his fitness.  It’s one thing riding out, but you need to get to a different level of fitness in order to race ride.  Think training on Thursday evening versus playing on Sunday afternoon.

“My first week riding out, I had to lengthen by leathers.  I ride at my normal length, the pain in my hip was just too intense.  I had to drop them by three or four holes.  I continued to work though, and I continued to ride out, I got fitter and stronger and I got to a point at which I was happy that I was fit to race-ride.  After that long on the sidelines, there was no way I was going to go back until I was a hundred per cent happy that I was ready.”

He was ready, he was back in time for the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, and he was back well in time to ride Teahupoo to win the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park last Saturday. 

“I was fairly confident going into that race,” he says, “I thought that Teahupoo would run a big race, but I didn’t think he would win as impressively as he did.  It’s hard to get a read on him at home, he wouldn’t blow you away with his homework, but he is very good on the racecourse, and he continues to improve.”

It looked like Quilixios was travelling at least as well as Teahupoo as they rounded the home turn in the Red Mills Hurdle, but when Robbie Power asked Teahupoo to pick up after landing over the second last flight, the horse’s response was impressive.

“I couldn’t believe how well he quickened,” says the rider.  “He deserves to take his chance in the Champion Hurdle now.  Of course, it’s a big ask.  Honeysuckle is obviously there, and the vibes are very strong about Appreciate It, but Teahupoo is entitled to take his place in the line-up at Cheltenham.”

As is Robbie Power.  Cheltenham has been a happy hunting ground.  There was the second day of the 2011 Festival, when a mistake at the final flight by Oscars Well in the Neptune Hurdle scuppered his rider’s chance of a first Festival winner, but that was just 35 minutes before he drive Bostons Angel to victory in the RSA Chase.  And there was that memorable year, 2017, Sizing John’s historic Gold Cup victory, supported by a Coral Cup on Supasundae and a Grand Annual on Rock The World. 

He is looking forward to getting a run at the spring now, because the season so far has lacked momentum.  He took time out during the summer to have surgery on his back to remove a trapped nerve.  He returned in early October, he rode Gin On Lime to victory in the Grade 3 novices chase at Tipperary on 3rd October.  Eleven days later, he had that fall at Tramore which left him on the sidelines for three and a half months.

But even though he was on the sidelines, he was still very much to the forefront in the minds of some of the best judges in the country.  When he started riding out again, he rode out for Jessica Harrington, for Gordon Elliott and for Henry de Bromhead.  A week before his return to race riding, Henry de Bromhead called him and asked him if he would ride Minella Indo in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

“It was great to get that call from Henry,” says Power.  “To get to ride a horse like Minella Indo.  And he gave me a great feel through the race.  I thought going to the second last fence that we would catch Conflated, but he just got tired from there.  It was a great run though, and he should be even better at Cheltenham.  I was delighted to get the call to ride him once, and I would love to get the call to ride him again.”

Still savouring it all.

© The Sunday Times, 27th February 2022