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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Powerful, passionate and unpredictable jump racing supporter

Alan Potts and Robbie Power share a moment after Sizing John's Gold Cup win
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Alan Potts graced the racing scene for little more than a decade but he certainly made a lasting impression.

He and his wife Ann had their first runners in the 2005-2006 campaign, and among those to sport the Potts colours that term were Sizing Europe and Sizing Australia, who combined to plunder a Cheltenham Festival double in 2011.

Both were trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Andrew Lynch, each of whom would subsequently be relieved of duty by the Yorkshireman.

Lynch’s services were dispensed with in September 2014 when 18-year-old 5lb claimer Jonathan Burke was appointed in his stead, and De Bromhead then lost all 13 of the horses he had for Potts two years later.

With Potts subsequently switching a number of his string to Colin Tizzard in Britain, Burke opted to stand down, and Robbie Power was eventually chosen to succeed him after guiding Sizing John to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in March.

Then Bryan Cooper was signed up to partner the British-based horses last month, with Finian’s Oscar’s tantalising chasing debut at Chepstow kickstarting the new partnership.

Given the frequency with which Potts changed tack, there is little doubt that he was at times capricious in his ways.

However, he was also a hugely influential individual and a passionate supporter of the jumping pursuit.

His willingness to spend vast sums of money on bloodstock has contributed significantly to the buoyant trade in point-to-pointers at the upper end of the market, so in that sense alone his buying clout will leave a massive hole, unless one of his children opts to maintain the connection with racing.

In terms of Potts’s legacy, he and his wife made an indelible impact. Consistently among the top six owners in Ireland, their big-race roll of honour is long and illustrious.

With De Bromhead alone, they amassed ten Grade 1 wins. The hugely popular Sizing Europe accounted for no less than eight of those, including the 2008 Irish Champion Hurdle, the 2010 Arkle Trophy and the following year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Sizing Europe (Andrew Lynch) wins the 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase from Big Zeb
Sourced from John Bleahan’s Galway nursery in Ballinasloe by De Bromhead – as was Sizing John – Potts’s venerable chaser might have won a second Champion Chase but for the confusion caused by the bypassing of the final fence in 2012, when he was dramatically denied by Finian’s Rainbow.

In the end, Sizing Europe retired at 13 years of age in 2015, having rolled back the years a year earlier to defy his younger rivals in the two-mile Grade 1 at the Punchestown festival.

In the meantime, Sizing John has picked up the mantle as flagbearer, securing Potts such a memorable victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, an event that he considered to be the sport’s holy grail.

Somewhat poignantly in retrospect, that has proved to be Potts’s final win in the Cotswolds. With other rising stars like Finian’s Oscar, Fox Norton and Pingshou to go to war with, the octogenarian was in the process of amassing a serious arsenal of equine firepower.

As such, Sizing John’s Gold Cup hat-trick last season might have been as much a sign of things to come as opposed to a pinnacle that marked a plateau of any description.

Potts’s sudden and sad death, coming so soon after that of his wife, means that seemingly bright future is now very uncertain, not just for the horses with whom he was associated, but also the people. His loss will be felt right across the sport.


LANDMARK DATES FOR POTTS

January 27, 2008 First Grade 1 win with Sizing Europe in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle

March 16, 2010 Breakthrough Cheltenham Festival success with Sizing Europe in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy

March 16, 2011 Sizing Europe secures Potts a first championship win at the Cheltenham Festival in the Queen Mother Champion Chase

September 9, 2014 Jonathan Burke replaces Andrew Lynch as retained rider 

July 29, 2015 Wins the Galway Plate with Shanahan's Turn

August 31, 2016 Potts removes 13 horses from Henry de Bromhead's yard. Jessica Harrington, Mouse Morris, Jim Dreaper and Colm Murphy are the beneficiaries, with Colin Tizzard then receiving Murphy's allocation after he quit training soon after

November 11, 2016 Jonathan Burke steps down as retained rider

March 17, 2017 Sizing John records a famous Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup victory

March 29, 2017 Robbie Power appointed as number one rider, although Jessica Harrington retains first call on him

October 10, 2017 Potts retains Bryan Cooper to ride his British-based horses

Total Grade 1 wins 18

His willingness to spend vast sums of money on bloodstock has contributed significantly to the buoyant trade in point-to-pointers
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