Posted: 17th Feb 2016
Annie Power: best-priced 3-1 with Ladbrokes for the Champion HurdlePICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Report: Punchestown, Wednesday
punchestown.com Mares Hurdle 2m4f, 4yo+
STAR mare Annie Power completed her Cheltenham preparations with an easy success at Punchestown on Wednesday and could now head for the Champion Hurdle following the shock news of Faugheen's injury.
Sent off at 1-20, anything less than an on-the-bridle win would have been a disappointment for the reappearing Annie Power. She made all easily, spending much of the race further ahead than the six and a half-length winning margin and is now best-priced 3-1 with Ladbrokes for the Champion Hurdle and as short as 6-4.
News of a season-ending injury to stablemate Faugheen had emerged just before the race, heaping significance on Annie Power's performance on what was her first start since May.
In beating rivals rated upwards of 30lb inferior to her, Annie Power didn't explicitly advertise her Champion Hurdle credentials here, but her long-standing class makes her an obvious replacement for Faugheen in the race for owner Rich Ricci.
The Champion Hurdle market has been shaken up but Mullins still stables the first three in the betting with Arctic Fire now 7-2 and Nichols Canyon a 9-2 shot. Identity Thief is 5-1 while My Tent Or Yours, who could return to action this weekend, is 10-1.
Supplementing on the cards
Trainer Willie Mullins said: "We could get her supplemented, so she could well go to the Champion. I haven't actually spoken to the owners yet about anything like that, but I'd say it's definitely on the cards.
"We've kept all options. The World Hurdle is a very competitive race but I can't really say which race she'll run in. I wouldn't rule out the Champion Hurdle, it could happen. We'll see how she progresses."
Referring particularly to Wednesday's performance, Mullins said: "I suppose it was no more than a schooling session, but in many ways that was all we needed from her today. We've plenty of hard work to do with her between now and Cheltenham."
Jockey Ruby Walsh could comment only on Annie Power's performance, having been told of Faugheen's injury while on the way to Punchestown. "She was very keen; the hood she wore would have been as well being on me!" he said.
"She jumped super and was never off the bridle. She's just a very, very good mare."
Annie Power had two other Cheltenham options and she drifted for both the Mares' Hurdle (best-priced 3-1) and World Hurdle (4-1) on Wednesday.
Layers seem to be expecting the other top-class Ricci-owned mare Vroum Vroum Mag to head for the Mares' Hurdle in Annie Power's place. She has shortened up to 7-4 for that race with Ladbrokes and Boylesports.
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