The Grand National Was Always The Race I Wanted To Win
Jockey Robbie Power, who won the 2007 Grand National on board Silver Birch, speaks to BoyleSports this week ahead of Saturday’s big race at Aintree.
From the moment I started to have thoughts about being a jockey, the Grand National was the race I always wanted to win.
Every year, from the start of the season, you’re thinking this could be a Grand National horse, or what can I have for the Grand National. It’s not something that starts the week before, it’s something that builds up from the start of the season.
I completed on my first start in 2005 and won it on the second ride in 2007 – that’s 15 years ago and I’ve had 10 or 11 rides in the race since, so I know how much luck is required to win a Grand National and how much you need things to go your way on the day.
The year I won, the cabbie was asking me what I was riding. I told him and he said ‘I’m stopping now on the way home to back it’ – so I hope he did!
Everyone in Liverpool gets involved and if I’m in a restaurant having a meal, I think whoever serves me will probably back me in the Grand National. The same as if I’m in a taxi going out to the racecourse, that taxi driver is probably going to have a few quid on me. Everybody has their fancies and as we’ve seen time and time again, anybody can win.
I think this year, more than any other year, the atmosphere is going to be second to none because the people of Liverpool have missed two Grand Nationals – 2020 was cancelled and 2021 was behind closed doors. So, it’s the first Grand National since 2019 where people are able to go and watch it. I think this year the atmosphere is going to be extra special.
I just feed off the whole buzz of the week. As you arrive you can feel the buzz around the city about the Grand National. Although Liverpool are playing Man City in a crunch game on Sunday – until the Grand National is over on Saturday, all everyone is going to be talking about is the Grand National, everybody gets involved and has a bet.
I fly in on Thursday and stay in a hotel outside of Liverpool. I don’t really make plans for Thursday evening as it’s almost straight to bed after I check into the hotel.
I ride in the Topham Chase on Friday, which is a nice warm-up for the Grand National. It gives you a feel for the fences the day before, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, I’m not sure which. Friday evening again, it’s pretty quiet. Myself and a couple of the other lads might go for dinner somewhere and just look forward and study through what your plan is for the big race the next day.
I actually find the day itself quite painful. We have to be at the racecourse for 12pm to have a briefing about the Grand National, which is something I think is totally unnecessary for professional jockeys. If they want to do a briefing, it should be done the evening before because having riders there from midday makes them more anxious an awful lot sooner than they need to be. You can’t pull out to the racecourse and then go back into your hotel and rest for a while.
You can always think every year you have a horse for the Grand National, but they’re unique fences. Fence number three in the Grand National is a great big ditch and that kind of sets your tone for the race.
If your horse doesn’t take to them, you know by the time you get to Becher’s Brook the first time whether or not your chance is gone. You know if you’re going to struggle to get around or if your horse isn’t really enjoying it. You know your fate pretty early on in the Grand National.
I think the modifications have taken that fear away a little bit, but Becher’s Brook is still a daunting fence. Before the modifications, when I first rode over the National fences, the jump at Becher’s was an awful lot bigger and you’re inclined to keep well away from the inside of it because the drop was much bigger in there.
But that’s been modified and it does make it an awful lot easier – you can chance more on the inside of Becher’s as it’s not as high a risk, but it’s still a big fence and it still commands plenty of respect.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ROBBIE POWER
Robbie ‘Puppy’ Power is BoyleSports’ Racing Ambassador and a successful National Hunt jockey with a number wins and achievements under his belt.
These include the English Grand National at Aintree, the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.