Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Annie Power can be big hit, says Ruby Walsh

Ruby Walsh, winning on Annie Power, believes the horse can be success at Cheltenham

Ruby Walsh has pointed to over-exuberance as a potential impediment to Annie Power's chances of staying three miles amid the razzmatazz of Cheltenham in the World Hurdle – though he also stressed that he believes she would stay the trip.

The most successful jockey in the history of the Festival elaborated on the dilemma facing Willie Mullins by highlighting the negative aspects in relation to each of her three options at the four-day gala in March.

Second guessing what route the brilliant champion trainer might eventually opt for with Annie Power is a futile exercise, but Walsh's insight is a reminder of the range of issues that must be considered.

Having steered the daughter of Shirocco to her 10th straight victory, over two miles at Doncaster on Saturday, the runaway Irish jockeys championship leader said yesterday: "She was more on her toes at Doncaster than she has been any other day but she has always been highly-strung – so that (three miles at Cheltenham) would be a worry. But that's part of every big race, how they handle the parade and the build-up.

"She's a good mare. The most impressive she was for me was at Cheltenham against Zarkandar (over two miles and five furlongs).

"I have no worries about her getting three miles. Even last year when she won a Grade One over two-and-a-half miles the further we went the better she went. But she doesn't lack pace."

As to which race might suit best, Walsh added: "I don't think any of the three would inconvenience her. Does she have enough experience over two miles for a Champion Hurdle? Do you want to expose her to At Fishers Cross and Big Buck's over three miles and risk emptying her out, or do you throw her in against Quevega?

"Thankfully, I don't have to make that decision.

"I wish I had a say in which races they ran in but I have none. It's the downside of having a good job, having to choose between good horses, but that's life."

The eight-time champion also defended Sam Twiston-Davies' handling of his four-time World Hurdle-winning partner Big Buck's at Cheltenham on Saturday.

"Sam may have wanted to ride Big Buck's differently in hindsight, but when you get beat you always do," Walsh suggested.

"I don't think I would have ridden him any differently. He was fit, he never stopped before and he'll improve for the run.

"Paul Nicholls has stated he's still the one to beat and he knows him best.

"Things didn't go according to script but to my eyes he got beaten because of race rustiness. He doesn't appear to have lost any of his old sparkle and looked like he was going to pull away up the hill.

"I know that Knockara Beau winning does dent the form but this trial has thrown up more questions than answers."

Meanwhile, today's meetings at Newcastle, Leicester and Ludlow have been abandoned, with Kempton the last remaining card.

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