Power and Harrington the star turns again with Our Duke
A fantastic season for Robbie Power and Jessica Harrington went up another notch yesterday when they landed Ireland's richest jumps prize, the BoyleSports Irish Grand National with Our Duke.
The 9-2 favourite, who thumped his rivals by 14 lengths, gave his 35-year-old rider and 70-year-old trainer a first win in the Fairyhouse Easter Monday feature.
The same trainer/rider combination enjoyed Cheltenham Gold Cup success with Sizing John last month and Power was also top jockey at Aintree's Grand National meeting with four winners.
After yesterday's impressive performance by Our Duke he said: "It's been an unbelievable season for me and Our Duke was absolutely brilliant today. Apart from a mistake at the fourth fence, his jumping was spot on and he saw the trip out really well."
Harrington, who shared three winners with Power at Cheltenham, said: "He jumped beautifully and Robert rode him with such confidence. He was absolutely convinced Our Duke was going to stay and he rode him like that.
"The horse actually loved the ground. I was a bit worried about it drying out but he absolutely loved it."
She added: "It's fantastic. The horses are in great form and it's just amazing the run we've had.
"I was surprised how well he did it. I saw the three of them [Our Duke, Fletchers Flyer and Stellar Notion] going away from the rest and our fellow just kept going.
"I thought going to the fourth-last that the pack was closing in, but Our Duke seemed to change gear again. He was very relaxed, and Robbie knows him so well. For a horse having his only his fourth run over fences, it was a great performance."
Asked if she might have two Cheltenham Gold Cup horses in her yard for next year, Harrington said: "They've all got to get there and it's 11 months away.
"That's why we didn't go to Cheltenham with Our Duke last month. The Cooper family, who own him, said, 'No – we want to wait for the Gold Cup next year'.
"He does look like a Gold Cup horse and we'll keep him and Sizing John apart and see what happens. It's taken me a long time but I'm finally getting the hang of staying chasers. I'm not calm inside – I'm shaking."
Bless The Wings, beaten a short head in the race a year ago, again had to settle for second place, faring best of Gordon Elliott's nine runners and earning €100,000 to boost his trainer's bid for the Irish trainers' championship.
"Bless The Wings never lets you down and he's just run another cracking race. He deserves to win a big pot and although he's 12 we'll keep him on the go as long as we think he is enjoying," said Elliott, who reported that his Tiger Roll, winner of the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last month, had bled before being pulled up.
Abolitionist, on whom Rachael Blackmore was attempting to become the first female professional rider to win the race, arrived with a promising effort before three out and lost out on second by three-quarters of a length after fluffing the final fence.
Gigginstown House Stud's 13-runner assault – Tell Us More was withdrawn lame – had Thunder And Roses, the 2015 winner, fare best in fourth, with General Principle fifth. Seven of their runners completed the course.