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15.45 Punchestown: Has Annie got the Power?

Annie Power is long odds-on to get back to winning ways in the day’s feature race, but may not get things all her own way with Cockney Sparrow in the line-up.

Willie Mullins’ mare tasted defeat for the first time when getting beat 1 1/2 lengths by More Of That in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

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 Annie Power the best chance of success and confidence was sky high.

The six-year-old was sent off the heavily backed 11/8 favourite but the bubble was well and truly burst when Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That beat her fair and square.

In hindsight, given Annie Power’s high cruising speed and turn of foot, the trip may have been her undoing.

Connections are now dropping her back to 2m 2f, and that should be ideal.

However, Annie Power’s tenancy to pull hard and clip the odd hurdle could be a negative if the race turns into a tactical affair, and the booking of Barry Geraghty to partner Cockney Sparrow certainly catches the eye.

Geraghty is the master tactician, and if there are any chicks to be found in Annie Power’s armour then he is the man to expose them.

In Cockney Sparrow he has a partner who comes into the contest on the back of a career-best performance in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.

John Quinn’s mare came from off the pace and showed a great turn of foot to win going way by 2 1/4 lengths from Court Mistrel, and although she was receiving plenty of weight it was a very taking performance.

It’ also worth remembering that earlier in the season, Cockney Sparrow had run really well to finish a staying on three length runner-up to My Tent Or Yours in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle over 2m.

That is strong form, and although the five-year-old looked held when coming to grief two from from in a 2m 4f contest at Doncaster in a race won by Annie Power, today’s 2m 2f trip and ground will suit Cockney Sparrow far better.

I certainly don’t think it is the penalty-kick that the odds suggest for Annie, and given the way Geraghty is riding at present it would be no surprise to see Cockney Sparrow spoil the party.