A zest for life and a love of horse racing kept Alan Potts looking far younger than his eighty years. Having sadly lost his wife Ann just three months ago, today saw the passing of a man whose colours became synonymous with success. Even those who go racing just once or twice a year as a social occasion will recognise the green silks, yellow chevron and red cap.
Potts founded the MMD group (Mining Machinery Developments) in the late 1970’s, a company that would spawn his now infamous prefix. When asked to develop a solution that would stop large lumps of coal blocking the conveyer belts leaving the mines, the company developed a ‘sizing’ machine that would be used across the board to break coal into smaller prices. From the pits came the name that would be known to all racing fans.
Sizing Europe was an early success story for Potts, One of the first horses to don their colours, he hit the consciousness of racing fans in the U.K on this coming weekend when landing the Greatwood Hurdle in 2007. He would go on to win twenty-two of his forty-five races, including an Arkle and a Champion Chase at the Festival. He would make five appearances in the Champion Chase, finishing in the runner-up spot twice. With the love of the game well entrenched, Potts would add quickly to his string with Henry de Bromhead, though with varying success.
It was a tough looking move for de Bromhead when losing the Potts patronage but for the Potts themselves it was the start of a golden spell. A link with Colin Tizzard saw them splash the cash on the exciting Finian’s Oscar as well as the smart chaser Fox Norton. With Jessica Harrington in Ireland they had Sizing John who would win an emotional Cheltenham Gold Cup for them earlier this year. Having battled an illness for a long time, it was hard not to get swept up in the moment when Ann Potts embraced Robbie Power in the aftermath, the fulfilment of a dream.
The Aintree Festival in April saw Pingshou add his name on the list of Grade 1 winners to wear their colours, Fox Norton landed the Melling Chase before raiding Ireland, bringing the Punchestown Champion Chase home with him. The addition of the ill fated Flemenshill in February for an eye-watering £480,000 continued a push by Potts to dominate the jumping scene. While Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott share the majority of the ammunition in Ireland for Rich Ricci and Gigginstown, Potts was building a colossal empire of superstars to rival them.
The passing of Potts at the age of 80 so soon after his wife is a tragedy for jumps racing. They may have only been in the game for a little over a decade, but the horses they have enjoyed success with in such a short period of time have seen them at the very pinnacle of the sport. Our thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends at this time, there could be no more fitting tribute than to see their colours carried aloft this season to future Grade 1 success. No-one in racing would begrudge their memory that, sizing coal turned into diamonds.