Annie can Power to glory in Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival

Annie Power can claim the Cheltenham Festival victory she so richly deserves in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.

Monday, 14th March 2016, 4:07 am
Trainer Willie Mullins with Annie Power. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Having suffered only one defeat from 14 completed starts, the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old undoubtedly has the ability to be rated among the pantheon of great mares - but yet she so far lacks that career-defining success.

Many believed she had earned a shot at Champion Hurdle glory two years ago, but Mullins, keen to split his aces, opted to keep her away from the great Hurricane Fly and instead gave the mare a shot at the World Hurdle.

Her narrow reverse at the hands of the seriously talented More Of That was certainly no disgrace and to say she did not stay is pure nonsense, but it did leave the impression that her keen-going style would be more potent back over shorter distances. It is a crying shame that injuries have restricted her to just four starts since.

Last year’s Mares’ Hurdle will never be forgotten after her dramatic exit at the final flight with the race at her mercy, but what has perhaps been lost was just how well she travelled and jumped through the race up to that point.

Her comeback victory at Punchestown last month told us she retains all her old enthusiasm and jumping ability and with stable companion Faugheen nursing injury, Annie Power is fully entitled to have a crack at the opening day feature, particularly when you consider the opposition.

Nichols Canyon somehow beat Faugheen in the autumn, but finished legless at Leopardstown in January and to back him to bounce back requires a leap of faith at the odds.

Identity Thief is promising, but need to step up significantly, The New One has surely had his chance in this race and to get My Tent Or Yours to win a Champion Hurdle after a two-year absence would be a herculean training performance, even by Nicky Henderson’s standards.

* Selections:

CHELTENHAM: 1.30 Min, 2.10 Douvan, 2.50 Shanahan’s Turn, 3.30 ANNIE POWER (NAP), 4.10 Vroum Vroum Mag, 4.50 Noble Endeavor, 5.30 Willow’s Saviour.

SOUTHWELL: 1.55 Spice Mill, 2.35 Grandad Chunk, 3.15 Hit The Lights, 3.55 Addictive Dream, 4.35 Limerick Lord, 5.10 Blades Lad, 5.40 Henry Smith.

WOLVERHAMPTON: 6.05 Sewn Up, 6.40 Golden Spun, 7.10 Mississippi, 7.40 Frenchman, 8.10 Helmsman, 8.40 Israfel, 9.10 Blushes.

SEDGEFIELD: 1.15 Mardale, 1.45 Kauto Riko, 2.25 Bollin Line, 3.05 Danceintothelight, 3.45 Bladoun, 4.25 Odds On Dan, 5.00 Mount Mizooka.

Double: Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag