Klassical Dream proves a Grade One spoilsport at Punchestown

Robbie Power denied a fairytale result on the day he announced his retirement

Klassical Dream proved a Grade One spoilsport at Punchestown on Thursday by denying Robbie Power a fairytale result on the day he announced his retirement.

The Grand National and Gold Cup winning jockey will bring the curtain down on his illustrious career when Teahupoo takes on Honeysuckle in Friday's Paddy Power Champion Hurdle.

Getting the better of Honeysuckle has proved beyond every horse to take her on, so perhaps Power’s best shot at a 32nd and final career Grade One success looked to come on Ashdale Bob in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers.

For a moment after the last Power looked like pulling it off too as he started to close on Klassical Dream. But ultimately the 11-10 favourite held on by just over a length.

Earlier Power had made his announcement following victory on Magic Daze in a handicap chase, his 665th winner in all.

It gives neat symmetry to the hugely respected 40-year-old's career, whose first success was at the track in 2001 when beating Ruby Walsh by a neck on the Jessica Harrington-trained Younevertoldme.

Harrington subsequently proved a stalwart supporter supplying 15 of his Grade One wins, including a famous and unmatched Gold Cup ‘Triple Crown’ on Sizing John in 2017.

There was also a memorable Aintree National success on Silver Birch in 2007 for a then little-known Gordon Elliott.

Inevitably injuries have figured too, including a broken eye socket that left him with double vision in his left eye that threatened his career. Only specially designed goggles allowed him see clearly while riding.

However, recent back and hip issues helped the son of former international showjumper Con Power to make his decision.

Relief

“I had my back operated on last summer and then fractured my hip when I came back in October. I’m 40 now, 41 next month, I’m not getting any younger. I had injections in my hip which didn’t really work so the past couple of months have been murder.

“There’s been several days I’ve woken up thinking this was it. If I’d won the Gold Cup I’d have gone then. But Punchestown has been lucky for me, so to go here, where I rode my first winner, and now I’m guaranteed to ride my last here, that will do,” Power said.

“It’s a relief to announce it. Even this morning my agent was asking if I was sure. I wanted to go out on something of a high but I have to do exercises every morning just to enable me to ride,” he added. “It’s been 21 years of my life – I’ll sit back for a couple of months and put on a bit of weight!”

Harrington described Power as being among the best she has ever seen over a fence.

“Myself and Robert had some great days together but winning three Gold Cups with Sizing John was the highlight. I don’t think any horse will ever do it again,” she said.

Klassical Dream was winning the big race for a second year running and put a disappointing effort at Cheltenham firmly behind him.

"Having so few runners (seven) in the race was a big help as he was able to settle him on the outside and keep him relaxed," trainer Willie Mullins said. "He gets a bit upset but he was very relaxed today in the parade ring, at the start and during the race. He's maturing as he gets older."

Duel

Mullins and jockey Paul Townend completed a Grade One double in the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase as Blue Lord got the better of a rousing duel with Coeur Sublime.

With his stable companion Gentleman De Mee a non-runner, the 2-1 favourite had a head to spare over his 20-1 rival as he successfully bounced back from defeat at Cheltenham when third in the Arkle.

After saddling his seventh top-flight success of the week so far, Mullins said: “I thought Coeur Sublime had stolen that race between the last two. But Paul said he didn’t want to appear in front too soon because the horse loses concentration so the timing was perfect.”

Mullins's James's Gate was an odds-on favourite for the bumper but never landed a blow as the 25-1 outsider Tag Man came through to land a Henry de Bromhead double.

Departure was also the theme after the La Touche Cup when the 15-year-old veteran Ballyboker Bridge repeated his 2019 success in Ireland's longest race and was promptly retired.

"He's been a horse of a lifetime, a great horse," said trainer Peter Maher who also saddled the third, Blast Of Koeman. "He's a bit cracked but he's not bad in his own way!"

The Anthony Honeyball-trained Lilith was a first cross-channel winner of the week in a mares' handicap chase.

Thursday official attendance of 21,357 was slightly up on the corresponding 2019 figure of 20,756.