Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power continued their dream run together when Our Duke galloped home clear of Bless The Wings to win the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Monday.
The pair had three winners together at Cheltenham, including the Gold Cup with Sizing John. Power, who on the back of that success has become owner Alan Potts’s first jockey, went on to be leading jockey at Aintree while, with her Flat hat on, Harrington sent out a Cork treble on Saturday.
Neither the trainer nor the jockey had won Ireland’s premier long distance chase before, but the outcome never looked in doubt. Power had Our Duke handy and out of trouble most of the way and went on with two others, Stellar Notion and Harry Fry’s runner, Fletchers Flyer, about a mile and a half out.
At one stage the trio were 12 lengths clear but while the other two were eventually swamped, Our Duke kept up the gallop and Power had enough in hand to show-jump the last two fences to make absolutely sure.
Bless The Wings, one of nine runners for Gordon Elliott, did not quite seal the trainers’ championship for him but provided another €95,000 (£80,000) in his push to wrest the title from Willie Mullins, finishing 14 lengths back in second. Abolitionist was third.
“I’m still shaking,” said Harrington afterwards. “He kept on going, he stayed brilliantly and Robbie said he made one mistake. For a horse having his fourth run over fences he was pretty good. The plan was to be up there on the outside with a good view of each fence and not being annoyed by other horses.
“It’s very special. I haven’t had a runner [in the race] for 10 years because I haven’t had any staying chasers. He was never going to go to Cheltenham, he wasn’t even entered although they were quoting him for the RSA. This was always the plan.”
Having not had a staying chaser for such a long time, she now has several. Our Duke was given a quote of 12-1 for next year’s Gold Cup, for which Sizing John is 6-1.
Barry Geraghty was stood down for the day after a fall from Minella Foru and while Gigginstown ended up fielding a dozen of the 28 runners, Thunder And Roses in fourth was their first home. Rather than worry too much about their apparent domination we should, perhaps, sympathise with Michael O’Leary that he has such a preponderance of slow horses.