Robbie Power, the Grand National and Gold Cup winning jockey, is to relocate from Ireland to Britain while Covid regulations restrict travel back home to Ireland.
For several seasons now, since he was appointed first jockey to the late Alan Potts, Power has done a weekly commute much like Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty before him, splitting his time between Colin Tizzard in England and Jessica Harrington in Ireland.
But, with travellers to Ireland required to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival, something had to give for Power and, describing it as the hardest decision of his career, he has decided to put his eggs in the Tizzard basket.
When the jump racing season proper gets going a bit in November he will be able to travel home for Grade One races without having to quarantine but, starting from Ffos Las today, he will be based this side of the Irish Sea until travel restrictions between Britain and Ireland alter. “How long’s a piece of string,” he replied when asked how long he might stay.
“It’s been the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my whole career,” he explained yesterday. “I’ve been with Jessie a long time and the hardest thing is leaving behind my wife, Hannah, and daughter, Emma.”
However with Tizzard expanding and investing and Harrington doing increasingly well on the Flat, it is now or never for Power, one of the most naturally gifted horsemen – he still competes occasionally in the Hickstead show jumping Derby – in the jump weighing room but, at 38, with limited years left.
Speaking to Telegraph Sport about the horses he was looking forward to riding this season, he picked out Lostintranslation, last year’s Gold Cup third, and the novice chasers The Big Breakaway and Fiddlerontheroof.
After a lot of umming and ahhing Cheltenham finally decided yesterday that the race which will be sacrificed to be replaced with the first mares’ chase to be run at the Festival; the two and a half mile novices’ handicap chase. The mares’ chase will be staged on Gold Cup day and will be sponsored by Paddy Power.
Simon Claisse, clerk of the course, said it had not been easy deciding which race to lose. “It was important we took into account all the factors and feedback we received,” he said. “But when we evaluated the other novice chase opportunities at the Festival, as well as the importance of maintaining the current balance of chases and hurdles over the four days, this was considered the best option.”