Tuesday 23 January 2018

rising star Burke is sizing up more of the same

Jonathan Burke went to last year's Punchestown Festival with a growing reputation as a youngster who could make some waves in the sport.

Back then he was just an amateur with his tally of winners barely into double figures, but he soared to prominence of the general public when partnering the Willie Mullins trained Very Much So to win the Land Rover Bumper and murmurs of him turning professional were starting to circle.

Fast forward a year and 19-year-old Burke, the son of trainer Liam Burke, will be crowned Ireland's champion conditional jockey and so far this season he has enjoyed over 50 winners and has been employed in one of the sports leading jobs.

"This time last year I had 17 winners and it is a massive change approaching the Punchestown Festival this year but sure it is great and I'm really looking forward to it," Burke told The Herald.

"I always said I would think about turning professional after Punchestown but never in my wildest dreams I thought it would go as well as this but I'm in a privileged position to be riding so many nice horses for so many people and to have the job with Mr and Mrs Potts.

The green, yellow and red colours of Alan and Ann Potts have become famous by the exploits of Sizing Europe and following last year's memorable win in the BoyleSports Champion Chase at Punchestown there was talk of retirement for the now 13-year-old but the former champion chaser continued to show enthusiasm for the game and connections opted to keep him going and it was a decision justified when he won the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park on his first run back.

That was Burke's first ride on Sizing Europe and public and he certainly appreciated the opportunity to win on such a classy racehorse.

"I think he was the starting point for my season, to win on him at Gowran Park," Burke explained. "That really just settled me into the job but to even just be part of Sizing Europe's story was great."

Sizing Europe's Gowran Park win was a Grade Two as was Shanahan's Turn Florida Pearl Novice Chase win at Punchestown in November but a first Grade One came at Christmas when Sizing John ran out an impressive winner of the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

"If you had said to be this time last year that I'd be riding in the Grade Ones at Leopardstown I wouldn't have believed you, let alone to say winning one on Sizing John... it was magic."

Earlier this month he doubled his Grade One tally when proving again just why Alan and Ann Potts have entrusted the faith in the youngster as Sizing Granite won the Maghull Novices Chase at Aintree.

Finding another Grade One at the Punchestown Festival next week would be a fitting end to what has been a truly remarkable season.

"It's great to be going to places like Cheltenham and Aintree with rides and then to get a winner at Aintree was a great buzz.

"They're the winners you want to be riding and Sizing John is the one I'm really looking forward to at Punchestown.

"He went to Cheltenham as an outsider in some books and came home a good horse and we'll have to take on Douvan again in the Herald Champion Novice but we'll have a go."

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