Can Annie Power retain Champion Hurdle crown in 2017?
David Metcalf | March 18, 2016
Annie Power 3/1 for back-to-back Champion Hurdle successes
Annie Power produced an awesome display when landing this year’s Champion Hurdle, becoming only the second mare to win the feature race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival since Dawn Run in 1984.
The Willie Mullins trained mare took up the running after the first and, after travelling powerfully throughout, surged clear up the hill to easily beat My Tent Or Yours by 4 1/2 lengths.
It was just reward for the eight-year-old, who at previous Festivals had finished runner-up to More Of That in the 2014 World Hurdle and fell at the last in the 2015 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle when clear and having the race at her mercy.
To my mind, Annie Power could have been winning a third Champion Hurdle this year rather than her first.
Denied chance to show her true worth
Her previous runs at the four-day spectacular had been largely decided by what Ruby Walsh rode.
Mullins is a trainer who does not like running his horses against each other where possible, and Annie Power swerved the 2014 Champion Hurdle because he had Hurricane Fly in the field and the 2015 running because her owner Rich Ricci had hot-favourite Faugheen in the line-up.
It is to be hoped that she now gets the chance to show what a superstar she is at 2m and, if allowed to defend her crown next year, potential take on stablemate Fuagheen in mouthwatering clash.
Faugheen favourite to recapture crown
Former Champion hurdler Faugheen, who was impressive when winning 2015 renewal, has long been regarded as Mullins’ stable star over the smaller obstacles. but missed this year’s contest through injury.
The eight-year-old has won 11 of his 12 outings under rules, and Faugheen heads the betting with Coral at 7/4 (from 2/1) for the 2017 Champion Hurdle.
He is probably a worthy favourite, but Annie Power will once again get a 7lb mares’ allowance and conceding the weight to such a talented performer will be no easy task.
Altior a big player for Henderson
If anything is to prevent Mullins winning the race for a third time in succession, then it is likely to be the Nicky Henderson trained Altior.
The six-year-old looked a superstar in the making when landing this year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which opens the Festival in tremendous style.
Altior was always travelling kindly under jockey Nico de Boinville, and when he asked the gelding for his effort the response was instant.
The son of High Chaparral scampered clear up the hill to record a seven length victory over the highly touted and hitherto unbeaten Min.
It was most taking performance, and Altior is currently 6/1 third-favourite (from 5/1) for the 2017 Champion Hurdle on the back of it.