Cheltenham Festival 2015: Mares’ Hurdle preview (16:00)
Annie Power looks a cut-above her rivals and can provide trainer Willie Mullins with his seventh success in the Mares’ Hurdle (16:00).
Mullins has won the race for the last six years with Quevega, and in Annie Power has a mare with a real touch of class and looks a natural predecessor to follow in her footsteps.
The seven-year-old has won 11 out of 12 starts under rules, with her sole defeat coming in last year’s World Hurdle.
Annie Power went down by just 1 1/2 lengths when runner-up to More Of That in the 3m contest and seemed to be outstayed by the winner.
However, it was still a top class effort and Annie Power faces nothing of the calibre of rivals in that contest and is now running over what looks to be her optimum trip.
Off an official rating of 162, the daughter of Shirocco also has 7lb and upwards in hand on today’s rivals, and although she has not been seen in action since winning at the Punchestown Festival last May fitness is unlikely to be an issue.
Mullins primed Quevega with precision to win the contest without a previous run during the season, and Annie Power is sure to have been prepared in the same way.
Glens Melody and L’Unique, who finished second and third in the race 12 months ago, look the pair most likely to take advantage if Annie Power does underperform.
The former is also trained by Mullins and looked last year to be the likely winner at the Cheltenham Festival until Quevega rallied strongly to lead 75 yards from home to score by 3/4 of a length.
The seven-year-old is a really consistent sort who has won eight of her 17 starts over hurdles and looked as good as ever when winning a Listed contest at Warwick last time out on the bridle by seven lengths.
L’Unique is trained by Alan King and has a good record in the spring.
The six-year-old, who stayed on well to finish a 1 1/2 length third in this last year, won a Grade 1 at Aintree back in 2013 and landed a handicap hurdle at Sandown last April in good style by eight lengths.
The daughter of Reefscape needs decent ground to be seen at her best, and she now gets that for the first time this season.
L’Unique has clearly been kept fresh and laid out for this by King, and a big run looks on the cards.