Robbie Power set to be first jockey for Alan Potts’s Cheltenham runners

Bryan Cooper signed a contract as retained jockey before the owner’s death last November

Jockey Robbie Power pictured with trainer Jessica Harrington after winning the  Red Mills Steeplechase  at Gowran Park. Photograph:  PA Wire

Jockey Robbie Power pictured with trainer Jessica Harrington after winning the Red Mills Steeplechase at Gowran Park. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Colin Tizzard, whose team for Cheltenham will include several runners in the colours of the late Alan Potts, said on Wednesday that “Robbie Power is the first jockey” for horses in Potts’s colours, which suggests that Power will replace Bryan Cooper on several high-profile rides for the stable at next month’s Festival.

Cooper signed a contract to ride for Potts as his retained jockey in Britain just a few weeks before the owner’s death in mid-November.

Potts’s large string of horses, stabled mainly with Tizzard and at Jessica Harrington’s yard in Ireland, has continued to race as before. While Power, who was Potts’s retained jockey in Ireland, has maintained that role, Cooper has been conspicuous by his absence on Tizzard-trained horses running in the late owner’s colours in recent weeks.

Tizzard chose his words with care when asked about riding arrangements for Cheltenham, while making it clear that Power is in prime position. “I think the situation [is that] Robbie Power is the first jockey,” he said, “or we can use Bryan, or if Bryan’s busy in Ireland we can use whoever we like.”

Cooper has not ridden for Tizzard – or in Britain – since pulling up aboard Finian’s Oscar in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 27th. He spent three-and-a-half years as the retained jockey for Michael O’Leary’s powerful Gigginstown Stud operation before losing the role in July 2017, but his career has been plagued by injury both before and after his Gold Cup-winning ride on Don Cossack in 2016 and now seems to have taken another turn for the worse.

Bryan Cooper signed a contract to ride for Alan Potts as his retained jockey in Britain just a few weeks before the owner’s death in mid-November. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Bryan Cooper signed a contract to ride for Alan Potts as his retained jockey in Britain just a few weeks before the owner’s death in mid-November. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Robbie Power took last season’s Gold Cup on Potts’s Sizing John, and his book of rides at this year’s Festival may now include Fox Norton, a leading candidate for either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase, and Finian’s Oscar, who will be fitted with blinkers when he runs in the JLT Novice Chase.

Ainchea (Supreme Novice Hurdle), Sizing Tennessee (RSA Chase) and Vision Des Flos (Ballymore Novice Hurdle) are other promising bookings that may now be on offer for Power, who is a 33-1 chance to be the Festival’s leading rider.

Tizzard also said that no decision has been made on a Festival target for Cue Card, who has been responsible for two of the trainer’s five previous winners at the Cheltenham Festival – in the Bumper (2010) and the Ryanair Chase (2013).

A report this week had suggested that Jean Bishop, Cue Card’s owner, is strongly in favour of running him in the Gold Cup, in which he fell at the third-last in both 2016 and 2017.

Tizzard, though, insists that a return to the Ryanair Chase is still a possibility. “If you read Monday’s paper it was all decided,” Tizzard said. “But it’s not. I’ve just spoken to Jean and it wasn’t what she really wanted to say, so we’ll let it run for a while. We don’t need to run away with any plans, this is his ninth season and it’s amazing he’s maintained his form. Jean is coming down for three days [from Sunday] to have a little holiday and we’ll make a decision then for sure.”

If Cue Card lines up for the Gold Cup he will be joined by his stable companion Native River, who finished third behind Sizing John last season. “He has got a wonderful chance,” Tizzard added. “I think at the moment we have got it dead right with him. We had a little skirmish round Newbury [in the Denman Chase this month] and that should put him spot on.” – Guardian service

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