ROBBIE Power can have a well-deserved lie-in today after bringing his 20-year career as a professional jump jockey to a close at Punchestown yesterday.
Power, who turns 41 next month, has been battling with injury in recent seasons. He missed almost four months of the current campaign with a hip fracture and has been coping with pain ever since he returned to the saddle in February.
After riding a winner on Thursday he announced he would be retiring once he had fulfilled his Friday obligations.
Explaining his decision, he said: “I had an operation on my back last summer, then I fractured my hip when I came back in October. I got injections but they didn’t really work and the last couple of months have been hard work. I’m 41 next month, I’m not getting any younger.
“Without Enda King in Santry (Sports Clinic), Niamh Doyle, my physio at home, and Jennifer Pugh (IHRB senior medical officer), Maria Kealy (personal trainer), John Butler (racecourse physio), there’s been so many people helped me along the way to get me through it and (my wife) Hannah has been very understanding because I’ve been fairly grumpy at times!”
Grade 1 winners
A winner of the Aintree, Irish and American Grand Nationals, Power rode 31 Grade 1 winners, many of them at Punchestown and he completed the historic triple Gold Cup with Sizing John, which he regarded as one of the highlights of his career.
“It’s hard to pick one out but that day here on Sizing John when he won his third Gold Cup,” Power said. “Djakadam and Coneygree (were in it). It was as good a race as I ever rode in and I got a huge buzz from that. I’ve had so many highs. I’ve had a wonderful career.”
Son of international show jumper Con Power, he only turned to race-riding after abandoning a promising show jumping career. “I came back from show jumping England with the intention of setting up a show jumping yard at home. My mother (Mags) had a horse in training with Jessica Harrington, so I went to ride it out for the winter. I rode a winner on her [December 2001], beating Ruby Walsh, and I was bitten by the racing bug.”
Power turned professional in 2002 and rode winners for both Paddy Mullins and Ger Lyons, but it was Jessica Harrington yard with which he became most associated. “Jessie had a huge number of jumpers at that time and I got loads of experience. Jessie made my career and she stuck by me through all the highs and lows.”
After a lean spell, Power got a lucky break in 2007 when he won the Grand National on Silver Birch for rookie trainer Gordon Elliott. “I was only 25 at the time. It was huge for both of our careers. The same month I won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Silent Oscar and that gave me just as big a lift.”
In more recent times Power and Harrington shared some unforgettable moments with Irish Grand National winner Our Duke and Sizing John, still the only horse to win Gold Cups at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown in one season.
“Sizing John was the best horse I ever rode. The only downside was I didn’t have him for another couple of seasons. After his Gold Cup treble, he won the John Durkan but got injured and was never as good.”
As the Harrington yard shifted focus towards the flat in recent years, Power teamed up with British trainer Colin Tizzard and rode several big winners before Covid shut down cross-channel traffic.
It was fitting that Jessica Harrington provided Power with one of his two Punchestown winners this week. She said: “We have had a long relationship together and he won’t be easy to replace. He’s been a brilliant rider and had a fantastic career. Robbie is unique because he can see a stride from one fence to the next.”
“I sit and watch him through my glasses when he’s riding in a chase and he’s absolutely amazing. I can see by his body language how he is going to meet a fence 50 yards away from the obstacle. We’ve had a long and successful relationship with Barry Geraghty and Robert and these guys are very hard to replace. Winning three Gold Cups with Sizing John was the highlight. I don’t think any horse will ever do it again.”
ROBBIE POWER’S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Cheltenham Festival winners: Sizing John (Gold Cup), Bostons Angel (RSA Novices’ Chase), Supasundae (Coral Cup), Grand Annual Chase (Rock The World)
Irish Grade 1 winners: Reserve Tank, Saldier, Oscars Well (2), Carrigeen Victor, Bostons Angel (2), Intelligent, Supasundae (2), Sizing John (3), Our Duke, Big Zeb, Jezki, Fox Norton, Chacun Pour Soi, Silent Oscar.
British Grade 1 winners: Supasundae, Lostintranslation (2), Slate House, Finian’s Oscar (2), Fox Norton, Reserve Tank, Fiddlerontheroof, Pingshou
Grand National: Silver Birch, Irish Grand National: Our Duke
American Grand National: Jury Duty
Galway Plate: Nearly A Moose, Galway Hurdle: Tudor City