Saturday 23 September 2017

'Robbie's been racing his whole life - I even met him in the yard'

Delighted wife of Gold Cup winner celebrates as Irish dominate festival

Jockey Robbie Power kisses the Gold Cup after winning on Sizing John Photo: Damien Eagers
Jockey Robbie Power kisses the Gold Cup after winning on Sizing John Photo: Damien Eagers

Sean O'Grady at Cheltenham

The woman behind Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie Power said she couldn't be prouder of her husband.

Hannah Power from Meath was at her partner's side in the parade ring after he soared to victory with Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John.

"I'm very proud, I'm delighted for him," she told the Irish Independent.

Mrs Power did not get to see her husband's first win - as she only made it to the Cotswolds on Thursday night.

Trainer Jessica Harrington in the winners’ enclosure. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Jessica Harrington in the winners’ enclosure. Photo: Sportsfile

"I came over to watch the Gold Cup. I just got in on Thursday evening.

"Robbie got on great. I'm very proud of him. He has been racing all of his life," she said.

She first met Power several years ago when she was working with trainer extraordinaire Harrington, who masterminded Sizing John's victory.

"I used to work with Jessica Harrington. I used to drive the lorry with all her horses and that's how I met Robbie. We met in her yard, he rides out there and I was working. Without racing, we never would have met," she said.

The 30-year-old said winning Prestbury Park's highest honour would mean the world to Power.

"He loves Cheltenham for the week that's in it. He loves his local track at Fairyhouse but in England, for any jockey to get to Cheltenham is really great," she said.

Gordon Elliott, who was named the Irish Independent leading trainer, receives the trophy from Geoff Lyons, Commercial Director at INM, and former trainer Martin Pipe Picture: Damien Eagers
Gordon Elliott, who was named the Irish Independent leading trainer, receives the trophy from Geoff Lyons, Commercial Director at INM, and former trainer Martin Pipe Picture: Damien Eagers

Speaking after his win, the jockey said it was one of his best victories yet.

"It was 10 years ago when I won the Grand National; I'm 35 now and appreciate this a lot more.

"It is fantastic and big thank you to all the team at home - they do a top-class job. This means more than any other winner I have ridden for Jessica," he said.

Co Kildare-based Harrington said: "I can't believe it, it was amazing how he jumped and travelled.

"Robert said he wasn't going to go down the inside, but he did. It's absolutely fantastic, my first runner in a Gold Cup.

"I've never had a runner in the race before so to train the winner - I don't know when I'll come down to earth.

Deirdre Flynn, from Blackrock, Cork Photo: Damien Eagers
Deirdre Flynn, from Blackrock, Cork Photo: Damien Eagers

"You can tell Robert did showjumping in his youth because I don't think he missed a beat the whole way."

The Irish were the undisputed champions in the Cotswolds as the Cheltenham Festival came to a close on St Patrick's Day.

Ireland left Prestbury Park with an outstanding 19 wins, beating their record of 14 last year.

Owner Michael O’Leary reacts as he enters the winners’ enclosure after winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle with Champagne Classic. Photo: Seb Daly
Owner Michael O’Leary reacts as he enters the winners’ enclosure after winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle with Champagne Classic. Photo: Seb Daly

Trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot ultimately dominated the proceedings, both securing six wins each over the four days. Mr Mullins had a rough start to the festival, failing to net a single victory for the first two days before sweeping St Patrick's Thursday with four wins and a further two on Friday.

"It isn't a race that has been lucky for us in the past. Penhill has class. We were trying to win with him over two miles and he just couldn't handle the pace of top-class racing over two miles, so we let him out to three miles and he impressed us so we said we'd go for this race," he said.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary followed his Thursday wins with a victory in the Conditional Jockey's Handicap Hurdle Race with Champagne Classic.

The businessman admitted he had no faith in the six year old, ridden by jockey JJ Slevin.

"I think that was miraculous as he's probably the worst horse we own, but it will mean more to Gordon as this is a race he's always wanted to win," O'Leary said. "When you buy in numbers there some are duds and he's one of them! The jockey gave him a great ride.

"We should be very grateful and very humble, it's great for Gordon and young JJ Slevin, he's ridden a couple of winners for us."

From left: Joe Sharpe, Gail Carlisle and Anna Paoletti from Willie Mullins' yard in Carlow celebrate after Penhill won yesterday Picture: Damien Eagers
From left: Joe Sharpe, Gail Carlisle and Anna Paoletti from Willie Mullins' yard in Carlow celebrate after Penhill won yesterday Picture: Damien Eagers

The Irish were out in force for the final day in Prestbury Park with die-hard racing fan Deirdre Flynn blown away by the display.

"This is my first time here but I absolutely adore horse racing so hopefully there will be many more. I booked it off last August, I had to come over this year," she said.

"I did my Master's on horse racing, I did my thesis on the betting markets. It's always been the plan to come to Cheltenham, it's amazing."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport