Alan Potts, whose pride and joy Sizing John scaled the ultimate peak in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, has died aged 80.
One of the leading owners in Ireland and Britain, Potts’s passing comes less than three months after his wife Ann, with whom he shared some top-class jumps horses, lost a long battle with illness.
The Potts husband-and-wife team enjoyed an incredible season in 2016-17, spearheaded by the Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John realising a lifelong ambition for the Yorkshireman in winning the Cheltenham Festival’s showpiece event.
Sizing John had also won the Stan James Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and went on to complete a treble in the Coral-backed Punchestown equivalent.
Harrington also trained Supasundae to win the Festival’s Coral Cup for Potts, while Fox Norton, Sizing Codelco and Pingshou won at the Grand National meeting for Colin Tizzard.
The Potts team originally enjoyed great success through the Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing Europe, who landed the 2011 Champion Chase, having won the previous year’s Arkle Trophy and the 2008 Irish Champion Hurdle. Last autumn, Potts removed his horses from De Bromhead, with Harrington and Tizzard the main beneficiaries.
Potts was an immensely successful businessman. In 1978, he invented a machine that sized rock as it was mined, revolutionising the industry and amassing more than enough money to feed his love of racing in recent years. It also provided the inspiration for the naming of many of his horses.
Sizing Europe – Leopardstown 27.12.12
He began working in the mines when he was 16, when his father was head of the union in his area. By 22 he was running a mine and at 40 he set up his own company, MMD.
Potts’s main jockey originally, through his relationship with De Bromhead, was Andrew Lynch. “Alan and Ann were good to me,” said Lynch on hearing of Potts’s death. “We had some great days together. I wish to send my condolences to his family.”
In October, Bryan Cooper was given the nod to ride his British-based horses based with Tizzard. His Irish team would continue to be ridden by Robbie Power, who became his first-choice rider following March’s Cheltenham exploits. Jonathan Burke was also Potts’s retained jockey for a spell.
Potts was a massively devoted jumps devotee, investing huge sums in the best stock, often out of Irish point-to-point fields. Finian’s Oscar cost £250,000 just over a year ago, while he set a record in February when paying £480,000 for another Irish point-to-point winner in Flemenshill, who subsequently suffered a fatal injury.
Potts rarely gave interviews, but was on record as saying that the Gold Cup was the race that meant most to him. It is unclear what plans are in place for his horses now, with Finian’s Oscar and Fox Norton both due to run at Cheltenham at the weekend.
Robbie Power riding Sizing John
HIS RACING LIFE
Full name Alan Potts
Born April 9, 1937
First Graded winner Sizing Europe (2007 Greatwood Hurdle)
Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John (2017)
Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe (2011)
Irish Gold Cup winner (Leopardstown) Sizing John (2017)
Punchestown Gold Cup winner Sizing John (2017)
Punchestown Champion Chase winners Sizing Europe (2012, 2014), Fox Norton (2017)
Irish Champion Hurdle winner (Leopardstown) Sizing Europe (2008)
Other Cheltenham Festival winners Sizing Europe (2010 Arkle Chase), Sizing Australia (2011 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase), Supasundae (2017 Coral Cup)
Other Grade 1 winners Sizing Europe (2009 Bord na Mona with Nature Novice Chase, 2011 Tingle Creek Chase, 2012 Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet Chase), Sizing John (2014 Future Champions Novice Hurdle), Sizing Granite (2015 Maghull Novices’ Chase), Finian’s Oscar (2017 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle, Mersey Novices’ Hurdle), Pingshou (2017 Top Novices’ Hurdle), Fox Norton (2017 Melling Chase)
Other big-handicap winners Goonyella (2015 Midlands Grand National), Shanahan’s Turn (2015 Galway Plate), Sizing Granite (2017 Guinness Handicap Chase)
Highest-rated horses (Racing Post Ratings) Sizing Europe (176), Sizing John (174), Fox Norton (174)
Richest win 327,462 (Sizing John, 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup)