Today’s hottest tipped horse at Cheltenham is Annie Power, racing in the Champion Hurdle at 3.30pm.
Willie Mullins is confident Annie Power will not be beaten for a lack of pace when she bids to make it third time lucky at the Cheltenham Festival in this afternoon’s Stan James Champion Hurdle.
Having finished runner-up to More Of That in the 2014 World Hurdle over three miles before suffering a well-publicised and heartbreaking final flight exit with the two-and-a-half-mile Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy 12 months ago, the brilliant mare now gets a shot at the two-mile hurdling crown.
With last year’s brilliant winner Faugheen suffering a season-ending injury a month ago, Annie Power was called up as the apparent super-sub and after being supplemented at a cost of £20,000, she bids to become the first mare since Flakey Dove in 1994 to claim Champion Hurdle glory.
Mullins said: “She’s taken on geldings before and I don’t think coming back to two miles will be any problem to her.
“It’s just been that the races that have suited her have been over two and a half miles and then we tried her in the World Hurdle and it took a fair one to beat her on the day, I think.
“I think it might actually be easier for her to race over two miles with the pace they’ll be going. It will be easier to ride her, anyway.
“She’s only had one run, but I think plenty of horses have won the Champion Hurdle with one run and the fact that she’s hard on herself at home is a good thing.
“Going back two years, Annie Power was quite a short price for the Champion Hurdle. We thought she was a Champion Hurdle horse that year, but we obviously had Hurricane Fly and a few others in the race.
“We have six horses here who, if they were with other yards, would be aimed at the Champion Hurdle and she is as quick as any of them.”
Annie Power is one of three runners for Ireland’s champion trainer as he bids to win the prestigious event for a fourth time.
Nichols Canyon inflicted a shock defeat on Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November and subsequently won the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown, but lines up at Prestbury Park with something to prove having finished a weary third behind his illustrious stable companion in January’s Irish Champion Hurdle.
“This season he has had to step up big time taking on the older horses and first time out he sprung quite a surprise when beating Faugheen,” said Mullins.
“For his next race we sent him to Leopardstown for the Ryanair Hurdle, which he won, but it was a real battle for him. He had to dig as deep as he probably ever has on the heavy ground and in retrospect it took more out of him than we thought.
“It wasn’t that he was beaten (in the Irish Champion Hurdle), because Faugheen was back to his best, but he never put up a fight, which is not like him.
“I have been happy with him since then and we know better ground will suit him from his big runs last season, so if he can return to his best form he has to be a major player.”
Mullins also saddles Sempre Medici, but admits he needs to up his game.
He said: “He has got to improve about 10lb to get involved. He is not rated in the 160s yet but I have got nothing else to run him in, unless he goes in a handicap off top weight and I don’t want to be doing that.”