Cheltenham Festival 2016: Is Annie a Power play in Mares’ Hurdle?
David Metcalf | February 3, 2016
Annie Power is currently the red-hot 4/6 favourite with Coral for the Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, but is she a banker or will she bomb out?
The Willie Mullins trained mare has won nine of her 11 starts over the obstacles, and was four lengths clear and travelling strongly when falling at the final flight in last year’s renewal.
That was the second time that she has tasted defeat at Prestbury Park, the other when she was beaten 1 1/2 lengths into second behind More Of That in the 2014 running of the World Hurdle.
It could be argued that she is not ideally suited by the venue, but in fairness they were both cracking efforts and Annie landed a Grade 2 contest with ease at the venue back in January 2014 when beating Zarkander by eight lengths.
To my mind, that rules any doubt about her now being suited by the undulating track, and a bigger question is whether she will be capable of winning this year’s Mares’ Hurdle without a run under her belt.
Slow recovery from injury
Annie Power has been on the sidelines since landing a Grade 1 at Punchestown last May, and her recovery from injury has been a slow process.
Mullins reports that she has steadily been coming to hand in recent weeks, and is sure to have her as fit as he can come 16:10 on Tuesday, March 15th.
The County Carlow handler saddled Quevega to win the contest for a record six successive years between 2009 and 2014, and five of those victories came on her first start of the campaign.
Annie Power is currently rated 162, just 5lb below what Quevega ended her career on, so clearly has the class to overcome an absence.
It also has to be remembered that the eight-year-old went into last year’s renewal without a prep run and would have dotted up had she stayed on her feet.
However, Annie Power has had just two runs since May 2014 and horses find it harder to recovery from injuries as they get older.
To my mind it is far from an ideal scenario to go to the Festival without a run under your belt, and whether I would want to back Annie Power at odds-on at first glance is questionable.
Opposition looks weak
On the other hand, Annie looks a cut-above the potential opposition and is rated 13lb superior to her two nearest rivals in the betting, Vroum Vroum Mag (3/1) and Polly Peachum (8/1).
Like Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag is also owned by Rich Ricci and he will not want them to take each other on.
With Vroum Vroum Mag likely to head for either the World Hurdle of Ryanair Chase, it’s hard to find any realistic opposition to take on Annie.
So taking everything into account, Annie Power looks one of the meetings bankers and granted a clear compensation awaits for last year’s last flight fall.