What does the future hold for Annie Power?
Annie Power was the mare that was ready to rule the World, but when it came to the big day she was comprehensively outgunned by a horse having just its fifth run over hurdles.
Willie Mullins’ six-year-old had never run over 3m before getting beat 1 1/2 lengths by More Of That in the 2014 World Hurdle.
Her handler decided that the Champion Hurdle over 2m and the Mares’ Hurdle over 2m 4f would be left to the established duo of Hurricane Fly and Quevega respectively. Connections thought the World Hurdle offered her the best chance of success and confidence was sky high.
A “world beater”, “a machine”, “a monster”, “unbeatable” and “the best mare since Dawn Run” were the superlatives and comparisons being bandied about before she was sent off the 11/8 favourite for her target.
However, the bubble was burst when Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That beat her fair and square.
Annie Power jumped the last alongside the eventual winner and they had a bit of a tussle up the run-in before More Of That forged clear in the last 50 yards to win going away.
Trainer Mullins was quick to offer no excuses, saying: “I think that she ran to her mark and we were beaten by a better horse. We were in a good position at all stages and I don’t have any excuses. She jumped very well – I can’t say that she made a mistake, got penned in or anything like that. It was a good horse race.
“We will look at everything for her. We have been at every trip this year and we will see how she comes out of that and see what race to go for.”
The two big questions now are was it the wrong decision to go for the race and what does the future hold?
As regards to the first, it was my opinion before the race that her tendency to race freely cast a major doubt over her getting home.
The fact that she was only beaten 1 1/2 lengths dispels that theory, but she was receiving a 7lb mares’ allowance from a winner who was having just his fifth run over hurdles.
That suggests that with More Of That likely to improve even further she will struggle to ever beat that rival if they meet again.
It would appear to be a futile exercise to take on the JP McManus-owned gelding, who clearly has the potential to win the World Hurdle for a good few years if connections decide to stick to hurdles rather than going chasing.
That leaves Annie Power’s connections with two possible alternatives for next year’s Festival as far as I am concerned.
The first is to drop her back to 2m and campaign her solely with the Champion Hurdle in mind.
With her ageing stable companion Hurricane Fly having been firmly put in his place this year by younger rivals, it would appear the most logical option.
She has a high cruising speed, a good turn of foot and the race looks ideal for her.
The other option is the Mares’ Hurdle. The race has been won for the last six years by her stable companion Quevega, but the mare has brittle legs and it is going to be a big ask to get her back to Cheltenham next year to make it a magnificent seven.
If she didn’t make the line-up then the race would be Annie Power’s for the taking, as it is by far the weakest graded race at the meeting.
However, I am not sure that owner Rich Ricci would be relishing a crack at a 2m 4f contest that carries little prestige, so for me all roads lead to the Champion Hurdle.