Annie Power could make eagerly awaited return at Punchestown

Willie Mullins’s mare has not been seen since winning at Kildare track last May

 Ruby Walsh riding Annie Power on their way to winning The Coral Hurdle Race Ascot racecourse on November 23, 2013 in Ascot, England. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Ruby Walsh riding Annie Power on their way to winning The Coral Hurdle Race Ascot racecourse on November 23, 2013 in Ascot, England. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Annie Power could make her eagerly awaited return to action next week after starring among the entries for Wednesday’s punchestown.com Mares Hurdle.

Willie Mullins’s brilliant mare was set to seal a memorable afternoon for the all-conquering champion trainer in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of last year’s Cheltenham Festival, only to suffer a now-infamous fall at the final flight.

She has not been seen in competitive action since bouncing back to winning ways at Punchestown last May and Mullins’s son and assistant, Patrick, suggested yesterday that time may be running out for her to have another run before returning to Prestbury Park next month.

Line up

However, she is one of 10 possible runners in next week’s two-and-a-half-mile conditions event and the master of Closutton will consider letting her line up.

“She’s in good form and working nicely at home,” said Mullins. “We’ve given her the entry [at Punchestown], so we’ll see how everything goes between now and then.”

Annie Power is a best-priced 8/11 favourite to right the wrong of 12 months ago in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at next month’s Festival, while she is a general 5/1 shot for the World Hurdle, a race in which she was narrowly denied by More Of That in 2014.

Jonjo O’Neill’s 2014 World Hurdle hero, who is set to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival after he was ruled out of an intended appearance at Newbury tomorrow, is two from two over fences since returning from injury, winning at Cheltenham in November and December. He has missed a number of potential engagements since then on account of testing conditions and with the ground at Newbury not expected to dry out sufficiently ahead of the Better Odds With Betfair Novices’ Chase, connections have drawn stumps once more.

Chase track

“He won’t be running on Saturday because of the ground,” Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said. “We were hoping it would dry up a bit, but it’s still soft, heavy in places on the chase track.

“He’s in great form and Jonjo is very happy with him.We were hoping it might dry out to being soft, but when it’s still heavy, we don’t want to run.

“We’d have loved to get another run into him, but Jonjo isn’t overly worried if he can’t, and it looks like he’ll probably go straight to Cheltenham now.

“We know he has a preference for nice ground.”

More Of That is a best-priced 9/2 second favourite for the RSA Chase at the Festival, behind the Gordon Elliott-trained No More Heroes.

Ballychorus booked her ticket for the Cheltenham Festival with a confidence-boosting victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Chase at Thurles yesterday.

Mishaps

Trained by Mags Mullins, the seven-year-old had rattled off a sequence before two unfortunate mishaps recently.

She fell when still just in front in the Troytown at the last and also suffered a final-fence exit when holding every chance in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas.

Sent off the 2/5 favourite to beat just three rivals, she just needed to be pushed out by Adrian Heskin to eventually beat Emcon by nine lengths.

“I’m delighted with the clear round and she was good. It’s great to get her confidence back as they don’t always come back from falls,” said Mullins.

“We’re thinking of the four-miler at Cheltenham [National Hunt Chase] and she deserves a shot at it now. I also think she’ll be much better on better ground and loved the summer ground last year.

“She was always going well today.”

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