ROBBIE POWER is focused on a second Gold Cup win.
The 36-year-old jockey is already eyeing up a repeat victory on Sizing John next March. But it’s only thanks to some special goggles he is able to ride at all.
A crashing fall at last year’s Galway Festival when he was kicked in the head threatened to end his career.
He smashed his cheekbone and left eye-socket leaving him with double vision when he looked through the top of his eyeball — just the angle needed for race-riding.
After an agonising search for a solution he finally found a surgeon with the answer to his troubles. And he hasn’t looked back since.
Power, nicknamed Puppy by Paul Carberry after cartoon favourite Scrappy Doo’s battle cry of “Puppy Power!”, enjoyed an incredible run last season.
It came ten years after winning the Grand National on Silver Birch for then little-known trainer Gordon Elliott.
In a dangerous sport with fine margins, he realises how close he came to being forced out of the saddle for good.
He told me: “I definitely wouldn’t be able to race-ride if I didn’t have the special lens in my goggles.
“In day-to-day life it doesn’t affect me. I drive a car, play football. It’s just when I’m on a horse.
“When I’m looking through the top of my eyeball I see double-vision. It’s the muscles on the floor of the eye that are damaged.
“If I want to get the surgery done later on I can but the operation is quite tricky — I’m not going to go tampering with it at the moment.
“The surgeon I was under worked with snooker players that had a similar problem. When you’re down on a cue you’re looking out in the same way. That’s why Dennis Taylor had the big glasses made.
“There was a time when I wondered if I would come back. I didn’t know what the problem was and I couldn’t find a doctor who knew what the problem was.
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“Not knowing was the worst thing. Thankfully the goggles work.”
Of that there is no doubt. Less than six months after returning to the saddle he had notched up Gold Cup wins at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown on Sizing John.
His big-spending owner Alan Potts, who sadly died two weeks ago, had clearly been impressed with his handling of his favourite horse and made Power his No 1 jockey.
He was rewarded with a sensational Grade 1 hat-trick at Aintree’s Grand National meeting as wins for Pingshou, Finian’s Oscar and Fox Norton cemented the relationship.
Power, son of legendary Irish showjumper Con, capped a golden spring when winning the Irish Grand National on Our Duke for his boss, long-standing supporter and Sizing John’s trainer Jessie Harrington.
Heavy ground has ruled the Gold Cup hero out of a return to action in the Betfair Chase today. He’ll instead run in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown on December 10.
Life-long Liverpool fan Power is already looking forward to being reunited with the horse who thrived after stepping up in distance following a switch from Henry de Bromhead to Harrington’s Kildare stables.
Having finished placed behind Douvan seven times over hurdles or fences, Power believes the secret of last season’s success was confidence.
He said: “From the first day I rode him I always thought he wanted further although I’m not saying I thought he was a Gold Cup contender at that stage.
“You talk about confidence in jockeys but horses need confidence too. He’d been getting his arse spanked by Douvan. When he won the Kinloch Brae at Thurles his work improved.
“When he won again at Leopardstown his work improved again. The horse got his confidence back as he got his head in front.
“From Leopardstown to Cheltenham he got better and better. The last couple of weeks leading up to Cheltenham it was obvious he would win the Gold Cup.
“He was the best horse in the race, it was just that extra two furlongs. I was confident he’d see it out and good ground was key.”
That makes his absence from today’s Haydock Grade 1 understandable. It means Potts’ dream of landing the Jockey Club’s £1m Triple Crown bonus will have to wait another year.
But despite the owner’s death it seems the horses will race on in his yellow, green and red colours. And that means some more VIP travel arrangements for Sizing John.
Harrington revealed he likes his own space. He lives away from the main yard with Coral Cup winner Supasundae and has the company of Jack Blue when he stays away from home.
That brings some logistical planning as he won’t travel with any other horses so two boxes have to be sent to the races.
Harrington grinned: “He merits it. He has everything on his own terms. At Henry’s he had a goat. I haven’t got the goat.
“I dread goats and sheep. The horses tread on them and they eat the food. The goat gets fatter and the horse gets thinner. He’s pretty good now.”
There’s the best part of four months for Sizing John to negotiate before attempting to become the first Gold Cup winner in three years to even make it to the next year’s Festival.
But this is certainly a horse with the Power and the glory.