Robbie Power, known affectionately as “Puppy” to his friends and fans, has long been seen as one of the finest horsemen in National Hunt racing. He shot to fame in 2007 when he rode Silver Birch to Grand National glory, but it’s taken the 31-year-old more time than many expected to establish himself in the upper echelon of jumps jockeys.
Many people will point to last year’s Gold Cup as Robbie’s breakthrough moment, when he rode Sizing John in the 2017 Gold Cup. Turning for home, Willie Mullins’ Djakadam loomed up to challenge Native River, but as he stumbled at the second last, Robbie seized the moment. Sizing John surged to a fantastic victory and Robbie, along with jubilant trainer Jessica Harrington, lifted the Gold Cup trophy in front of the Prestbury Park faithful.
It’s been a long, difficult journey to the top for the man from County Meath. Under the guidance of father Con Power — who was part of the famous Irish show jumping squad that dominated the Aga Khan Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show during the late 1970s — Robbie competed successfully in show jumping as a teenager and earned a team silver medal in the 2000 Young Rider European Championships.
His sister, Elizabeth “Esib” Power, pursued eventing instead and is one of Ireland’s top riders, while Robbie switched his attention to National Hunt racing. Although he has successful dipped his toe back into show jumping on several occasions – with his 2013 triumph in the Hickstead Speed Derby one of the highlights of his career — Robbie’s stock within the National Hunt racing world has never been higher, and he’s poised to taste further success over the coming weeks.
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival dominates the National Hunt racing horizon, with eyes on both sides of the Irish Sea fixed firmly on the middle week of March. Jessica Harrington’s stable has not sustained the stunning vein of form enjoyed towards the backend of last season. Yet, any runner she fields at Cheltenham will be a danger, and Robbie will be charged with riding her biggest and brightest talents.
After securing a third-straight Gold Cup at Punchestown on his final start of last season, Sizing John looked as good as ever when storming to victory on his reappearance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase. Sadly, last year’s heroics seemed to catch up with him during the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown. Following that flop, Harrington decided to give her charge a well-deserved break, and they will head straight to Cheltenham to try to defend their Gold Cup crown.
Robbie was celebrating again at the end of last season after riding Our Duke to a wonderful triumph in the Irish Grand National. He may have quite the decision to make as to which of Harrington’s stars he will ride in the Gold Cup, with Our Duke on course to join Sizing John in Cheltenham’s showpiece event. The 8-year-old may have been defeated on both of his starts this season, but he showed encouraging improvement following a back operation to finish fourth in the Irish Gold Cup earlier this month and is likely to progress further between now and the Festival.
With a tilt at the Stayers’ Hurdle in mind, Jessica decided to give Supasundae a spin in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Robbie guided last year’s Coral Cup winner into battle with several Champion Hurdle contenders, including Willie Mullins’ legendary hurdler Faugheen. Yet, Supasundae prevailed, seeing off a strong field of two-mile specialists to land a maiden Grade One crown. The Stayers’ Hurdle remains his primary goal at Cheltenham, and he will return to the Festival oozing with confidence.
Alletrix claimed an excellent victory in a Mares’ Handicap at Leopardstown last week, and she could be an outsider to look out for in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Power has also struck up a successful bond with Gordon Elliott’s Jury Duty, and they could renew their partnership in the National Hunt Chase.
Whichever silks he wears and whatever horse he rides, Robbie Power will be a name to be feared when he approaches the post in any race at the Cheltenham Festival. His success in the Gold Cup last year was considered a surprise by some, but if Robbie were to repeat that sensational feat, no eyebrows would be raised in the Cheltenham Festival winners’ enclosure this year.