Alan Potts, whose red, green and yellow colours have been among the most familiar in National Hunt racing over the past dozen seasons, died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 80, just three months after the death of his wife, Ann, with whom he co-owned Sizing John, the winner of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.
Potts, an engineer who grew up in Yorkshire, refined a key process in the mining industry known as “sizing”, and made a fortune after setting up his own business, MMD, 40 years ago, selling machinery to carry out the procedure to mine operators around the world.
Along with his late wife, Potts started to invest heavily in National Hunt racing in 2005, with many of his early recruits bearing names such as Sizing Europe and Sizing Australia to reflect the owners’ business interests.
Until the 2016-17 season, Potts’s runners were trained almost exclusively in Ireland by Henry de Bromhead, who saddled Sizing Europe to win eight Grade One events including the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2008, the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the same meeting 12 months later. Sizing Australia also recorded a Cheltenham Festival success for Potts and De Bromhead, in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Chase in 2011.
In August 2016, however, the Potts string left De Bromhead’s stable, with Sizing John moving to Jessica Harrington’s yard and more than a dozen horses moving across the Irish Sea to join Colin Tizzard. The Potts colours enjoyed a series of big-race wins at the spring festival meetings in 2017, as Sizing John completed a unique treble with victories in the Gold Cups at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown, while Finian’s Oscar and Fox Norton both took Grade One events for the Tizzard stable at the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April.
Potts had increased the size of his string at the Tizzard yard ahead of the new jumps season, and recently hired Bryan Cooper, formerly the No1 rider to Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud operation, to ride his horses in Britain. Robbie Power, who steered Sizing John to victory at Cheltenham in March, was Potts’s retained jockey in Ireland.
“It’s come as a massive shock to us, it’s horribly sad news,” Joe Tizzard, Colin’s son and assistant, said on Tuesday. “We’d got to know Alan and his family very well in the last 12 months, and we had some very special times, especially at Aintree and Punchestown last year. It’s really, really sad news and all our thoughts are with his family.”
The Potts’s daughter, Julie, regularly accompanied her parents to the races. It is unclear at present whether her late father’s horses will continue to run as planned over the coming days and weeks, though one report on Tuesday suggested that all of the owner’s horses are expected to remain in training.
Several runners were expected to represent Potts at Cheltenham this weekend, including Finian’s Oscar, who made a successful chasing debut at Chepstow last month and holds entries in novice chase events on Friday and Sunday, and Fox Norton, who is entered in the Grade Two Shloer Chase on Sunday. Sizing John, whose success at Cheltenham in March realised a lifelong ambition for Potts, had also been expected to return to action in the near future, in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday week.
Wednesday’s tips, by Greg Wood
12.30 Buffalo Ballet 1.00 Quick Pick 1.35 Spoils Of War 2.10 Wide Awake 2.40 Mac N Cheese 3.10 Gold Opera 3.45 Forewarning
12.40 Agamemmon 1.10 Rene’s Girl 1.45 Sir Mangan 2.20 If The Cap Fits (nap) 2.50 Cool Sky 3.20 Erick Le Rouge 3.55 Motueka
12.50 Present Times 1.25 Brave Eagle 2.00 Jepeck 2.30 Wicked Willy 3.00 Yanworth 3.35 Fairy Pol 4.05 Chosen Path
3.40 Zaidiyn 4.15 Ostilio 4.45 Lord Of The Glen (nb) 5.15 Francis Xavier 5.45 Rare Groove 6.15 Salty Sugar 6.45 Stardrifter