Few will argue that the 2014 Champion Hurdle looked tailormade for Annie Power, but trainer Willie Mullins opted to run her in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle instead to avoid a clash with stablemate Hurricane Fly.
The end result was that Mullins landed neither of the Grade 1 prizes as the Fly was beaten by Jezki and Annie Power outstayed by More Of That.
Last year there was another clear plan from Mullins to spread his big guns across multiple contests, with Faugheen replacing Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle hotseat. Annie Power was reduced to the Mares’ Hurdle instead, which she was making a mockery of until falling at the final obstacle.
So after two years of arguably running in the wrong races and winning neither, the opportunity has now unexpectedly presented itself to run her in the race she has been best suited to from the start.
Faugheen was 1/4 to win the Champion Hurdle for the second successive year, but has disappointed numerous ante-post punters by being ruled out of the Festival with a suspensory injury. Jockey Ruby Walsh described the withdrawal as similar to “whipping the ace out of a pack of cards”.
The latest Champion Hurdle betting still has Mullins responsible for the top three in the market, with Annie Power at 2/1, Arctic Fire 7/2 and Nichols Canyon at 5/1.
Having not been included in the initial entries, Annie Power would need to be supplemented in the race, but the manner of her comeback success at Punchestown, literally moments after the Faugheen announcement, suggests this is a worthy decision.
Annie Power has a high cruising speed and was arguably hindered in her previous World Hurdle attempt by having to be restrained early on.
She is versatile not only in terms of distance, but also in the manner she is ridden. The eight-year-old can be held up off a good pace or take it out from the front.
The absence of Faugheen leaves the Champion Hurdle shorter on front runners and it could almost be a like-for-like replacement with Annie Power, who can control timing fractions at the head of affairs and has proven stamina over longer trips.
Walsh also knows the mare even better than Faugheen, having won on her nine times in 11 starts. The prior defeats have been at the Cheltenham Festival.
Annie Power is too good a horse not to have a high-profile Festival success on her resume and this seems the ideal time for her to emerge from the shadows of the cast of Mullins Championship hotpots to become one herself.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.