Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins’ confirmation that Annie Power will take on Big Buck’s in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival saw the super-mare cut from 9/4 into 7/4 second-favourite to win the stayers’ event round the small obstacles.
As was reported on these pages recently, Cheltenham Thursday’s big race was always the likely destination for Mullins’ unbeaten inmate, who also holds entries in the Champion and Mares’ Hurdles.
Ruby Walsh is booked for plum Mullins’ rides Hurricane Fly (5/2) and Quevega (4/7) – who have seven festival wins between them – on Cheltenham Tuesday, and stays onboard Annie Power for the World Hurdle, having steered the Shirocco mare to wins in her last six starts.
Walsh booted home 6/4 favourite Big Buck’s to four World Hurdle wins in a row between 2009-2012 when working for old gaffer Paul Nicholls and, after the 11-year-old’s 18-race unbeaten run came to an end under jockey Sam Twiston-Davies at Cheltenham in January, there were whispers that the County Kildare man could hop back on him at the festival.
The fact that Walsh has plumped for new boss Mullins’ mare bodes extremely well for Annie Power backers, while Nicholls’ veteran was eased out to 6/4 from 5/4 following the news.
Many will forgive Big Buck’s performance in his first race back for over a year as the Prestbury Park darling was clearly in need of a run, but after finishing three quarters of a length behind Knockara Beau – a horse Nicholls’ gelding beat by 36 lengths the last time they met – a fifth win in the event for the Ditcheat stalwart looks less and less likely.
At Fishers Cross – who also finished ahead of Big Buck’s in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle – can be backed at 5/1 for a second successive festival victory, having taken last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy recently confirmed that he will ride Rebecca Curtis’ stable star in the 3m event, as opposed to Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That, who comes next in the betting at 6/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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