Harrington and Power scale new Royal heights
One would guess that 17 could well be Jessica Harrington's favourite number. On the 17th of March she saddled Sizing John to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and yesterday, on the 17th of April, the trainer continued her phenomenal run by sending out Our Duke to win the BoyleSports Irish Grand National. 2017 has been a good year for the Kildare trainer.
Outside of the Aintree Grand National, no races in the code of jump racing are worth more than the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Irish Grand National and in the space of a month the recently turned 70-year-old has won both.
"Not bad for a 70-year-old," Harrington quipped yesterday. "It's hard to comprehend winning the Gold Cup and the Irish National. It's taken me a long time to get the hang of training these staying chasers!"
"I haven't had a runner in the Irish National for 10 years, I don't think, and it makes it even more special. We decided after Christmas the plan was to go back to Leopardstown and come here and all this recent success is down to all the team who work so hard at home. I have a great team and I'm just very lucky."
Our Duke was Harrington's first runner in the Irish Grand National since Gazza's Girl finished down the field in 2007 and as memorable a month as it has been for her, Robbie Power, local to Fairyhouse, has enjoyed a golden run of his own, riding both Sizing John and Our Duke, while also landing the job of Alan Potts' retained jockey in the meantime which saw him crowned leading rider at Aintree earlier in the month.
Power said: "We jumped out and the plan was to be handy with plenty of light. I was in my comfort zone the whole way around.
"This means so much to me, it's my local racecourse and I was second in it a few years ago so this is nice compensation. He is a hell of a good horse. He is very, very good."
Bless The Wings was second in the race for the second year in a row and while Gordon Elliott will be disappointed that he didn't manage to claim a first Irish Grand National, the second half of yesterday's racing was a profitable one as he bids to become champion trainer for the first time.
Bless The Wings, earning a cheque for €100,000, gave the current leader another significant step ahead of Willie Mullins who started the day off well with Diakali and Renneti both winning but Elliott finished with a flourish as he won both Cork bumpers and the Fairyhouse finale to end the day around €400,000 in front.
The drying ground forced Elliott to withdraw the exciting Sutton Manor from the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle won by Renneti but punters did witness another potential star in Samcro who bolted up in the concluding bumper to score by 17-lengths.
That win was the icing on the cake of a good afternoon for the title chaser and ahead of the action back at Fairyhouse today, where both trainers has a strong team in the €100,000 feature race.
The cruel postscript to the National was that Barry Geraghty left the track with a suspected broken arm and having just returned from injury now looks to miss the Punchestown Festival and face another two months on the sidelines.
His regular deputy for JP McManus, Mark Walsh, stood in for the spare ride on Slowmotion who won the Grade Three Mares Chase for trainer Joseph O'Brien.
Noel Meade is another trainer enjoying a fine season and he was on the board again yesterday with Showem Silver landing the handicap hurdle for owner Philip Reynolds who later confirmed that his Cheltenham Festival winner, Presenting Percy, will step up to Grade One company at the Punchestown Festival for a mouthwatering clash with the Mullins-trained Albert Bartlett winner, Penhill.