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Ruby and Annie face Big Buck's

Annie Power and Big Buck's will meet in a mouthwatering showdown in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – with Ruby Walsh switching from the latter to ride the former.

Walsh has ridden Big Buck's to all four of his World Hurdle triumphs.

Unbeaten mare Annie Power – trained by Willie Mullins – also had the option of the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the OLBG Mares Hurdle.

"Ruby (Walsh) will ride Annie Power in the World Hurdle. I've had a good chat with the owners and they are happy with that plan," said Mullins last night.

"Ruby will be on Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle and Quevega in the Mares Hurdle."

Annie Power's target has been the subject of much speculation.

The six-year-old's three outings this season have all come in Britain, with the Rich Ricci-owned daughter of Shirocco winning at Ascot, Cheltenham and, most recently, Doncaster, Walsh in the saddle for all three.

Sam Twiston-Davies partnered Big Buck's in his only outing this year, a third place at Cheltenham in January in a race won by 66-1 shot Knockara Beau.

Big Buck's is trained by Paul Nicholls for whom Walsh was the number one rider before cutting ties last year to concentrate on his job with Mullins.

Coral make Annie Power 15-8 favourite from 9-4 for the World Hurdle on Thursday week, easing Big Buck's to 9-4 from 15-8 ahead of what is one of the most eagerly-awaited clashes of Cheltenham week starting on March 11.

"Although Annie Power will be tackling three miles for the first time, she won impressively at Cheltenham over an extended two and a half miles in soft ground on New Year's Day and we favour her to extend her unbeaten record under Ruby Walsh in what could be one of the races of the week," said Coral's David Stevens.

* RISING star Danny Mullins – jockey of Our Conor – will be on the panel at the annual Sean Graham Cheltenham Festival preview night at the Europa Hotel tonight (7.30pm).

Belfast Telegraph