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The Big Question: Will Annie Power stay in World Hurdle?

The Willie Mullins-trained super-mare will be stepped up to 3m for the first time in her career in an attempt to land the World Hurdle prize on day three of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Unbeaten in all of her 10 career starts, Annie Power returns to Prestbury Park after claiming victory over Zarkander on New Year’s Day over 2m 5f on the New Course.

As the current market favourite, many would argue that this horse represents a solid banker for the four-day meeting but, as she is yet to run over 3m, others have voiced their doubts about her stamina although it does not seem to have affected the odds.

In terms of her pedigree, Annie Power is by Shirocco out of an Old Vic mare – Anno Luce.

Her sire is a multiple Grade 1 winner over 1m 4f on the flat, who has fathered the likes of Red Sherlock, Lac Fontana and Mijhaar. She is closely related to Air Tropper (unbeaten winner on the flat over 1m 2f and 1m 4f) and Head Waiter (a winner over the jumps over a maximum of 2m 6f).

Her pedigree is stacked with stamina and her jockey Ruby Walsh has been bullish that, not only will she will cope with the step up in trip, but that she will thrive over 3m.

Speaking to the Racing Post at the start of the March, Walsh was adamant that ‘The further she goes the more it’ll suit her’.

An examination of her victory at the New Year’s Day meeting certainly instils further confidence. After sauntering through the race, she led into the home straight and, despite not meeting the last with any great fluency, she picked up well to power up the hill to victory.

She looked her strongest at the line and seemed to have plenty more left in the tank.

Undoubtedly her stamina will be tested with the likes of Big Buck’s, At Fisher’s Cross and Celestial Halo in opposition. Likely to try to expose any chinks in the mare’s armour, the race will be run at a strong gallop with an obvious emphasis on stamina.

Mullins has always thought this runner is something special and she has the opportunity to establish herself as the staying superstar over hurdles.

In terms of the question marks over her stamina, she should see out the trip and in fact possibly improve for it.