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Cheltenham success makes World Hurdle enticing Annie Power option

There may only have been three runners in the Dornan Engineering Handicap Hurdle, but Willie Mullins’ unbeaten mare Annie Power finished so full of running that connections should be zeroing in a World Hurdle tilt for the 6/1 shot.

In securing victory over 2013 Champion Hurdle fourth Zarkandar at Cheltenham she added to her festival prospects by proving she handles the track.

It represented a second successive victory over that foe and excitingly an improvement, racing as the pair did on closer terms than in their Ascot tussle.

Having recorded a 5l victory over Paul Nicholls’ charge in November in receipt of 13lbs, her most recent success came by a margin of 8l with Zarkandar just 7lbs in arrears.

Despite the small field they went a decent clip and the Mullins mare’s victory showed she has no small amount of stamina in her armoury.

The extended 2m4f trip was the lengthiest test she’d yet encountered and it was overcome on a none-more-testing track with the going heavy underfoot.

With the race ran on the New Course, supposedly the more stamina-sapping of the two Prestbury Park layouts and the host of the World Hurdle – it was all the more impressive.

As such her victory seems to plot a path to the Thursday feature, with many a supporting reason why she must be backed at 6/1 in the Cheltenham betting.

Conversely there are details that suggest should be ignored at 8/1 in the Champion Hurdle odds.

Firstly her illustrious stablemate Hurricane Fly goes in the 2m blue riband and with My Tent Or Yours and The New One also short in the betting it rates an immensely competitive field.

In comparison the World Hurdle seems less daunting, with Annie Power already as short as the 2013 winner Solwhit, who won a renewal that started at a farcically slow gallop.

Favourite for the 3m test is staying monolith Big Buck’s at 9/4, but there’s cause to doubt the veteran ahead of his seasonal return in the Cleeve Hurdle.

In at best his second race back after a campaign on the sidelines through injury, the 11-year-old must become just the third horse (himself included) to win a World Hurdle after the age of nine in the race’s 40-year history.

Another reason to believe that taking on Big Buck’s and Solwhit is the way to go is the mare’s complete lack of experience on ground better than good-to-soft.

By March the Cheltenham ground has a strong chance of riding good and if there is a chance Annie Power is at her best on a slower surface then the longer, more attritional test will make greater appeal.