You followed your championship- winning father Con Power into his world of showjumping and won the Dublin Junior Championship. What made you switch to race-riding?
I always wanted to be a jockey but when I was younger I thought I would be too tall and heavy. When I was 18 I realised I wasn’t going to be that heavy and the idea was to give racing a crack because I couldn’t see my showjumping career going much further.
Showjumping was a great grounding for being a jockey; the main challenge I faced was the different speeds on the approach to fences.
They’re obviously going a lot faster racing and I had to adjust as the fences were coming at me much quicker, compared to showjumping.
I learnt a lot from Dad, who taught me two things – to be patient and never carry the bad days with me, just move on. Dad was in the Irish Army and discipline played a big part; he was strict on punctuality.
If he said the lorry was leaving for a show at half seven and your pony wasn’t ready he’d go without you.
You ride for two of the most powerful stables – Jessie Harrington in Ireland and Colin Tizzard in Dorset. What are the main differences between two such top-tier operations?
Not a lot, really. They are both brilliant horse people and very understanding of each individual animal. The main difference is that Jessie is training horses from five furlongs to four and a half miles, while Colin is just concentrating on National Hunt.
Their routines are very similar. The secret of any top trainer is keeping things simple and they both do that unbelievably well.
What makes each trainer command so much respect throughout the sport?
I suppose the fact that they have both had huge success is part of the reason we have great respect for them. Also that they are very humble in success. They don’t get high and mighty after their big winners; they understand the ups and downs of racing.
“My dad taught me two things – to be patient and never carry the bad days with me”
I have noticed that both yards have the same staff, year in year out, and are obviously very good operations to work for. A feeling of loyalty easily rubs off from both set-ups.
You are regarded as one of the top jump jockeys around – was there ever a stage when you doubted you would make it to the top of your profession?
There was a time when I had a lot of injuries, the same as any jockey going through phases when you’re laid up. Thankfully, I am mentally very positive and always kept believing.
When I started at Jessie’s Moscow Flyer was the flagbearer and I always thought that one day there would be a Moscow Flyer for me. I don’t think I ever doubted my own ability, but I did question whether I’d ever get the chance to ride a Gold Cup or Champion Hurdle horse.
When I was younger I struggled with injury quite a bit and I did wonder if I was ever going to get a clear spell long enough for me to get going properly.
The hardest part of being a jockey is sitting at home watching horses winning that you should have been riding. I always tried to believe that I would be back, and hopefully winning on them.
What has been the biggest turning point of your career?
I suppose winning the Grand National on Silver Birch in 2007 because it came at a time when I had had terrible trouble with injuries and had ridden only ten winners in Ireland.
It probably saved my career because it put me back in the picture in a sport where you can be quickly forgotten when you’re not involved in the action.
Jason Maguire had been due to ride Silver Birch but was claimed by Donald McCain and I was called in to deputise. That just shows you the luck of this game.
Ruby Walsh coped famously with the commute between Ireland and England. How do you organise and manage with the constant flying backwards and forwards?
Ciaran O’Toole, my agent, does a really professional and efficient job booking my rides in relation to where I am supposed to be going in both countries.
Then my wife Hannah is fantastic at organising all the flights, hiring cars in all sorts of different places and sorting my accommodation when needed.
It’s all down to planning and organisation and Hannah finds the best options for airports depending on where I am riding in England.
They say that ‘behind every good man there’s a good woman.’ I certainly rely on one because I am not the best person in the world with modern technology.
What is the secret of keeping both trainers happy, as well as your own Power family?
We have a one-year-old daughter, Emma, so Hannah is not only looking after me but Emma as well. She has plenty going on all the time.
As far as avoiding clashes with runners, both trainers are very understanding; Ciaran O’Toole does well in helping to sort out any possible tricky situations that might arise.
If I have a Grade 1 horse to ride in England, Jessie is very happy to let me off, and the same with Colin if there’s a Grade 1 in Ireland.
Obviously, throughout a season there might be one or two clashes, but nine times out of ten they work themselves out. I also think that the fact Jessie has respect for Colin, and Colin for Jessie, is a major factor and a big help.
You have won the Grand National on Silver Birch (2007) and the Gold Cup on Sizing John (2017). Which victory meant the most to you, and why?
The Gold Cup was always the race I wanted to win, even more so than the Grand National.
Sizing John was my first ride in the race, so to win first time up made it extra special – unbelievable! Winning the Gold Cup opened a very big door for me as the owner was Alan Potts, who then asked me to ride his horses in England as well, and they were trained by Colin Tizzard.
“Silver Birch put me back in the picture in a sport where you can be quickly forgotten”
That started our association and it could hardly have got off to a better start with four winners for Colin at Aintree, all on Potts horses. Then I went to Punchestown, where I won on two more for Colin and Potts.
At the start of the next season the situation got even better with Colin asking me if I’d like to ride some of his horses that were not Potts-owned.
Silver Birch saved my career but Sizing John was responsible for taking me to another level in England.
What you need now is a Champion Hurdle. Any chance with Supasundae, perhaps?
Yes, the Champion Hurdle is one race I’d love to win. I suppose it’s the race Supasundae is most likely to go for at Cheltenham this time, particularly if the ground is soft.
It’s a wide open division, sadly without reigning champion Espoir D’Allen. Supasundae has beaten Buveur D’Air and Buveur D’Air has beaten Supasundae, so they stand at one-all. If Supasundae gets soft ground he could have a chance.
I love him to bits; he’s won three Grade 1s but never gets the credit he deserves. I think he went through a spell when he ran in 12 consecutive Grade 1s and never finished out of the first three.
He is ultra- consistent but bone idle at home, never does more than he has to and loves his grub – a bit like me!
Is there a big difference between the craic in the Irish and the British weighing rooms?
They are pretty similar and both weighing rooms have their characters. In Ireland I’d say two of the big mickey- takers are Paul Townend and David Mullins, while in England it’s Harry Cobden and the Bowen brothers, Sean and James.
They’re both great weighing rooms to be part of and full of characters. One thing we all have is great respect for one another.
How did you come by your nickname ‘Puppy’ Power?
Paul Carberry, who, over time, is probably the biggest mickey-taker of all, was responsible. He came up with the name from the cartoon Scooby Doo, where one of the characters is ‘Puppy Power’.
Paul started calling me ‘Puppy’ 19 years ago and it has stuck. Mind you, I’ve been called a lot worse!
Is there one missing part in the career of Robbie Power that you’d like to complete?
It has to be winning the Champion Hurdle and the Champion Chase as well. I have accepted that I don’t think I could be champion jockey because I am riding in two different countries most of the time.
That doesn’t bother me too much because I realise I am lucky to be where I am in such a competitive game.
After your left eye socket was shattered in a Galway fall in 2016 you had to wear special goggles to contain your double vision. Do you still have to wear them or is your sight back to normal?
I still wear them, but not necessarily when I am riding out. I used to have them on every time I was on a horse, but now it’s only in a race because the adrenaline of the race gives me double vision.
I’ve never had a problem driving a car or reading a paper; it was only when I looked out through the roof of my eyes while riding that I’ve had problems.
“Both countries should have a National Hunt break of four to six weeks in the summer”
I don’t think it could have worked against me getting rides because when I came back from the injury I enjoyed the best season I’d had.
A lot of people told me the goggles improved my riding.
You are now 37 – in your quest to remain at the top of your profession what are the physical and mental extremes you put yourself through?
I do a lot of swimming because of problems with my back and the swimming exercise helps to keep my body as supple as possible.
I have to do a lot more stretching than I did five years ago and I spend time with Enda King in his clinic at Santry going through physiotherapy, stiffness and stretching exercises to keep the back and hips in working order. Fortunately, my weight is pretty stable.
Mentally, I don’t really do anything to keep me in the right frame of mind – apart from riding good horses. I realise how lucky I am to be on so many. Also, riding for these two trainers instils confidence.
Neither Colin nor Jessie give me instructions when they leg me up. I know what they want and that makes the mental side of the job much easier and also provides me with a clear mind when I go out to ride a race.
If you could change one thing in racing in Ireland and in Britain, what would it be?
Both countries should have a National Hunt break of four to six weeks in the summer. Too much of the same thing all the time is not good for the people involved in racing, or even for those following from the outside.
Jockeys, trainers and all staff involved in the sport would benefit. Jockeys would be better off mentally and physically. Their careers would be extended if they could have an annual holiday away from it all, resting their bodies.
There’s never been so much racing and in the summer it’s on firm ground, which is not good for the jumpers. Too much of anything dilutes the end product. I am a big supporter of Liverpool and when the soccer season finishes I am glad of the break and then begin to look forward to the next season with renewed enthusiasm.
Wouldn’t a summer break from jumping have a similar effect on all of us?
Give us two horses to look forward to this winter?
In England I’d say Colin’s Fiddlerontheroof. I finished second on him in the Persian War at Chepstow and I think he will rank highly among the novice hurdlers.
I also like Gold Des Bois, a point-to-point winner who arrived at Jessie’s this year. He ran disappointingly in the bumper at the Punchestown festival but is a lot better than that and could develop into a nice staying novice hurdler.