Annie Power set to star at Doncaster for Mullins and Walsh
Annie Power bids for a third successful raid across the water this season when she lines up for the Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday. She is unlikely to be troubled with Cockney Sparrow, runner-up in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, her only serious rival.
Willie Mullins has left of all his options open for Cheltenham with the mare currently quoted for the Champion Hurdle and World Hurdle. If she puts in another impressive display here, she could join stable mate Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
Former Champion hurdler Rock On Ruby looks to have a stiffer task in the Lightning Novices’ Chase earlier in the day. The nine-year-old has only an easy win at Plumpton to his credit over fences and faces some smart rivals including Valdez and Fox Appeal.
Valdez represents Alan King who was forced to shut his stable after a mystery virus resulted in his monthly winning percentage dropping to just 7%. Recent test results have been encouraging but the Scot will be anxious as his first runners appear this weekend.
Emma Lavelle’s Fox Appeal looked very smart when winning at Ascot in December and that followed a game effort when just collared by Wonderful Charm at Wincanton. That is some of the best novice chase form on offer this season and he will provide a tough test for Rock On Ruby.
Lavelle also saddles Timesremembered in the Grade 2 three-mile novice hurdle at 2.40. After winning the Persian War at Chepstow, the gelding has finished runner-up in decent races at Cheltenham and Newbury.
He faces some promising types including Racing Pulse who suffered defeat for the first time in desperate ground at Cheltenham last time. The going may not quite so testing at Town Moor and he could return to winning ways.
The feature race is the Sky Bet Chase at 3.15 with Unioniste attempting to defy top weight under Harry Derham. The grey was outclassed behind Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth at Leopardstown but will be difficult to beat in this grade.
Gullinbursti could make it a red-letter day for Emma Lavelle if he can win this valuable prize. The eight-year-old is tough and consistent and should give Noel Fehily a good ride.
Selections: 12.25 McIlhatton, 12.55 Fox Appeal, 1.30 Bellenos, 2.05 Annie Power, 2.40 Racing Pulse, 3.15 Unioniste, 3.50 Side Step