One of the joys of National Hunt racing lies in watching the young stars progress through the ranks and move on to greatness. From bumpers through the hurdling division and often on to chasing, witnessing these talented equine athletes grow and develop year after year is one of the most compelling aspects of the sport.
Sadly, however, we don’t always get the chance to see these racing stars reach the pinnacles that their talent demands. Due to the inherent risks of the game, injury, and sadly fatalities, are a diminishing, but unavoidable aspect of the sport. Whenever a rising star meets such an untimely demise, amidst the sadness for connections and fans, lies the question of what might have been.
Earlier this year, we had a new entry into this unfulfilled potential category in the shape of the Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old Mighty Potter, who cut a swathe through the novice divisions before tragically suffering a fatal injury in a fall at Fairyhouse on the 9th of April 2023. Gone but not forgotten, here, we look back at his finest moments on the track.
Bursting Onto The Scene
Sired by top National Hunt stallion Martaline, and a half-brother to the 140+ rated performers Indiana Jones and French Dynamite, hopes were high for the Caldwell Construction Ltd-owned gelding ahead of his racecourse debut in a Punchestown bumper in March 2021. Sent off as the 15/8 favourite, Mighty Potter proved a class above his rivals to power home by five lengths.
Put away for the year on the back of that success, Mighty Potter returned in October 2021 to make his debut over obstacles in a Down Royal Maiden Hurdle. What followed was one of the most emphatic displays of the early season, as Mighty Potter sauntered 29 lengths clear under a near-motionless Jack Kennedy. So impressive was that display, an immediate step up in class beckoned. That tilt at the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle proved a step too far, although he still ran with great credit to hit the line strongly in third. With that experience under his belt, it wasn’t long before he was entering the winner’s enclosure at the highest level.
Mighty Potter’s Greatest Wins
Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle – Leopardstown 2021
Mighty Potter was only the fourth most likely winner according to the betting market, in a field including talented – and similarly ill-fated – stablemate Three Stripe Life, the highly regarded Largy Debut from the Henry De Bromhead operation, and a trio of runners from the powerful Willie Mullins yard.
Not much went right for Mighty Potter during the race – a stumble after the first fence threatened to end his participation early and seemed to knock his rhythm throughout. However, he overcame a number of novice-like jumping errors to remain in contention, and once his impressive engine kicked into gear in the straight, it soon became clear he would not be denied – ultimately coming home one and a half lengths clear of subsequent Mersey Novices’ Hurdle winner Three Stripe Life.
Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle – Punchestown 2022
Mighty Potter was sent in pursuit of Supreme Novices’ Hurdle glory for his next assignment, only to blot his copybook by losing the plot in the preliminaries and making it no further than the fifth obstacle during the race. On the back of that effort, the jury was out ahead of his outing in this Grade 1 contest at the Punchestown Festival. With Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner Sir Gerhard and the talented front-runner Dysart Dynamo amongst the opposition, the market wasn’t expecting much, with Mighty Potter sent off as a 20/1 shot in this five-runner field.
Any doubts that the horse wasn’t up to this level were dispelled in sizzling style. Leaving the Cheltenham Festival experience well behind, Mighty Potter appeared to be travelling like the best horse from a long way out and put this talented field to the sword to forge clear for an easy four-length success.
Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase – Fairyhouse 2022
Moving into open hurdling company was an option ahead of the gelding’s five-year-old campaign, but connections instead decided to go straight over fences. That quickly proved to be a shrewd move. Despite a few inexperienced mistakes, Mighty Potter made short work of his rivals when landing odds of 2/5 in a Beginners’ Chase at Down Royal, before again being moved right up into top company for this test.
Old rival Three Stripe Life was again amongst the opposition, as were six-length Arkle trial winner Banbridge and Grade 1 winning hurdler Gaillard Du Mesnil. Keeping the good times rolling, Mighty Potter was much too good for them all, showing impressive reserves of stamina to pull clear of a horse in Gaillard Du Mesnil, who would later go on to finish third in the Grand National.
Ladbrokes Novice Chase – Leopardstown 2023
Following that resounding win, Mighty Potter appeared to be perched at the top of the Irish staying novice tree. All that remained was for the horse to confirm it in one of the most prestigious contests at the Leopardstown Festival. Given the high level of form shown, the days of being sent off as a 20/1 shot for such a race were long gone, with the mount of Davy Russell starting as the clear even money favourite for this 2m5f affair.
On the day, the race turned into Gordon Elliott’s solitary entry versus a quintet of stars from the Willie Mullins operation. Gaillard Du Mesnil returned for another crack, whilst new threats emerged in the shape of future Irish Grand National champ I Am Maximus, the improving James Du Berlais, and the Grade 1 bumper winner, Kilcruit. Elliott’s one proved more than enough as Mighty Potter stamped his class all over the field to post a performance which – little were we to know at the time – would prove to be the high point of his short, but spectacular career.