Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Annie has the Power to see off the World

Quevega under jockey Katie Walsh
Quevega under jockey Katie Walsh

Quevega proved on the Festival's opening day she's unstoppable at Cheltenham with her record sixth win in the Mares' Hurdle.

But the best lady Willie Mullins has in his stable is Annie Power and she would have trotted up in Tuesday's race if it hadn't been earmarked for Quevega and a history-making celebration that was duly delivered.

In fact, with Hurricane Fly disappointing in the Champion Hurdle, thoughts will turn to whether or not Mullins should have run Annie Power in that race in view of her talent and ability to stay. However, the decision was made to take on Big Buck's in today's World Hurdle, with the trainer and jockey, Ruby Walsh, confident she'll get the three miles trip.

More important, however, is the fact that Big Buck's has to give Annie 7lbs and, frankly, it's doubtful if there is any gelding around who can do that.

Big Buck's will need to be at his absolute best if he's to stride the 'World' for a fifth time, having missed last year due to injury. Since January 2009 to December 2012, he has been untouchable in stayers' races, suffering his first defeat in the trial in his comeback over course and distance back in January.

Paul Nicholls's champion did not run badly, anything but after 13 months on the sidelines. However, being caught in the run-in by At Fishers Cross and handicapper Knockara Beau, does raise question marks. Annie would brush those latter pair aside with the greatest of ease.

And that's why she can't be avoided and makes for a maximum bet in what's more or less a two-horse battle. Her unbeaten 10-race record includes two wins this season in England over 2m 4f, one of them an eight-length defeat of the more than useful Zarkandar who won the Triumph Hurdle here three years ago.

The Power looks exceptional and is a potential Gold Cup winner, so expect her to be firing on all cyclinders this afternoon.

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