Posted: 16th Feb 2016
Star mare Annie Power has only been seen twice in the last 22 monthsPICTURE: Caroline Norris
Preview: Punchestown, Wednesday
Punchestown.com Mares' Hurdle 2m4f, 4yo+, 1.35pm
ANNIE POWER is likely to be sent off one of the shortest priced favourites for a National Hunt race in history when she returns from a 291-day absence on Wednesday.
We may have only seen her twice in 22 months but, barring accidents, we will get to see her twice in one month as she warms up for either the Ladbrokes World Hurdle or the OLBG Mares Hurdle in a three-runner contest that is hers for the taking.
Annie Power's sole defeat when she has stayed on her feet was in the 2014 Ladbrokes World Hurdle when finding More Of That too good but Willie Mullins has hinted all season that the staying hurdle showpiece could once again be her aim if he managed to get a prep run into her before the festival.
That prep comes today and Paddy Power pushed her out to 8-11 (from 4-7) for the OLBG Mares Hurdle last weekend when news of her return was revealed by Mullins in the Racing Post.
She was shortened into 3-1 from 7-2 for the World Hurdle by the same firm.
Hood to be applied
Mullins was unwilling to disclose his festival plans for Annie Power but he did issue an upbeat bulletin on her progress over the last few weeks and hopes that the application of a hood for the first time can help her relax.
"The weather forecast suggests it could get windy and it is her first run for a very long time so she is likely to be fresh and we thought that a hood might help her," Mullins said.
"She is in good form and I have been very happy with her over the last while. We are happy to let her to take her chance. There are only three runners but she is well able do her own thing and she has showed in the past that she can make her own running. That does not bother her.
"We will get this out of the way before thinking about Cheltenham and nominating a target for her," he added.
'Money indicates World Hurdle the target'
Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield believes the recent money his firm has seen suggests that a second crack at the World Hurdle is on the cards.
"Willie is on record as saying that the World Hurdle is Annie Power's more likely target if she were to run before the festival and the fact that she turns up at Punchestown today suggests that is the case," Binfield said.
"We cut her into 3-1 for the World Hurdle and pushed her out to 8-11 for the mares race and the way punters have been acting tells me that the World Hurdle is where she is going to end up."
Legacy Gold also returning from lay-off
Annie Power is officially rated 32lb better than Legacy Gold, who is back with Stuart Crawford having spent the best part of the last three years with David Pipe.
The Larne-based trainer is under no illusions about the magnitude of the task facing his eight-year-old mare.
"Legacy Gold was always a very good mare and she showed that when winning the Listed bumper at Aintree a few years ago," Crawford said.
"She has obviously been off for a very long time but her work has been good and we needed to get a run into her.
"It is not ideal having to take on Annie Power but if she was a good second to her we would be happy. If it all went well, we would consider the mares hurdle at the festival and the better ground there would suit her."
The three-runner field is completed by Melbourne Lady whose most recent success arrived at Limerick in December of 2014 in a handicap hurdle off a mark of 120 so she looks to have plenty on her plate.
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