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Annie in no mood to give up record


Brilliant Irish mare Annie Power strengthened her big-race claims when easing to an impressive success on her rain-soaked Cheltenham reconnaissance mission in the Dornan Engineering Hurdle.

Prominent in the ante-post markets on the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was running over an extended two and a half miles, having been successful at just short of that trip at Ascot on her seasonal reappearance.

With just three runners, Ruby Walsh was content to sit behind the pace-setting grey Empire Levant before jumping two out upsides.

Empire Levant weakened coming down the hill, where 2-5 favourite Annie Power took over.

Zarkandar tried to go with Walsh's mount but, despite a slight mistake at the final flight, Annie Power pulled a ready eight lengths clear up the hill to extend her unbeaten record to nine from nine.

Walsh said: "She's a very good mare, and was entitled to improve from her first run back at Ascot.

"She handled the ground and jumped very well, apart from a minor hiccup at the last.

"Although this ground isn't easy on the eye, it's a pleasure to ride in and she appeared to enjoy it.

"If you look back, all the best horses go in the soft, look at Denman, Hurricane Fly and Kauto Star, they all handled those conditions.

"She's nine from nine now, and that's not an easy record to achieve. But from day one she has never been anything but very good."

Paddy Power left the winner unchanged at 6-1 for the World Hurdle and cut her to 10-1 from 12-1 for the Champion.

However, Walsh would not be drawn on a likely target for Annie Power back at Cheltenham in March.

He said: "Where she will run at the Festival is a decision for Willie and Willie only."

Oscar Whisky strengthened his claims for what will probably be a tilt at the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Festival with a clear-cut defeat of Taquin Du Seuil in the Cheltenham Pony Club Raceday Novices' Chase.

His three-quarters of a length verdict might have been lessened had the runner-up not nodded on landing over the last with Tony McCoy, but the way Barry Geraghty's mount galloped up the hill it is hard to imagine the result was affected.

Belfast Telegraph

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