Annie Power is just that little bit special
Annie Power lends a touch of star appeal to the season finale at Punchestown this afternoon.
Willie Mullins' exceptional mare was conquered for a first time in 11 starts by More Of That in an epic World Hurdle at Cheltenham. She drops in trip for today's mares' Grade One – a €100,000 race that isn't without some depth.
The daughter of Shirocco is a heavyweight title-holder being challenged by less distinguished scrappers, though the Scottish Champion Hurdle heroine Cockney Sparrow is no slouch.
Mullins, who will top the trainers' pile for an eighth time, is responsible for 50 per cent of the six-runner field.
He relies on Abbyssial and Adriana Des Mottes in the quest to thwart Tiger Roll and Guitar Pete in the AES Four-Year-Old Champion Hurdle, and his delegation in the €100,000 Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle is mind-boggling.
Of the 25 runners, nine hail from his relentless Closutton operation.
Ruby Walsh, champion for a first time since 2010, has opted for Upsie. He doesn't often get it wrong.
But the Grade One Mares' Champion Hurdle is the big one.
Annie Power is a mare of rare quality. Her chance in the World Hurdle was compromised by her keen running style, yet she still went down fighting to More Of That in a thrilling showdown.
Back over this trip, Ruby will doubtless let her settle wherever she finds her rhythm, so she may not even see another horse. Last year's winner Glens Melody ran her heart out again to be fourth on Thursday, although she may be suited by further these days.
Cockney Sparrow was fourth to Quevega at Cheltenham, and then beat My Tent Or Yours in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. This will be tougher off level weights, but she has quality.
Cockney Sparrow is respected but Annie Power is a little bit special.
As for the Grade One AES Champion Four-year-old Hurdle, Tiger Roll is hard to oppose.
An authoritative Triumph Hurdle winner, Tiger Roll has run just three times in his life, finishing second to Guitar Pete in a Leopardstown Grade One before Cheltenham.
Guitar Pete was soundly held by five lengths there, and the Grade One that he won with such flamboyance at Aintree wasn't as strong a race on form. However, he is a beacon of consistency.
Abbyssial is a cracking chasing prospect, with any rainfall sure to be to his advantage.
His stable-mate, Adriana Des Mottes, won a non-event of a Grade One at Fairyhouse and is held by him on form, while the remainder also need to step up to have a say in this.
Prince De Beauchene is trusted to excel in lesser company in the Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase.