Annie Power leaves the stage but there is no let-up for Mullins

Mare will be remembered for coming back to win Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham

Willie Mullins may have confirmed Annie Power's remarkable racing career is over but the champion trainer's relentless drive for success continues at Punchestown on Wednesday and will then take him to Paris this weekend.

Shaneshill is set to lead a potential triple challenge on Saturday’s €175,000 Grade Two Prix La Barka at Auteuil, the traditional stepping stone to next month’s French Champion Hurdle which Mullins has won four times in the past.

Open Eagle and Airlie Beach are other Barka entries while the four-year-old Meri Devie holds entries in Saturday’s Grade 3 Prix Questerabad and Sunday’s Listed Prix D’Arles at the Paris track.

Outside hopes that Annie Power might have attempted a last hurrah at Auteuil were finally scotched on Tuesday when Mullins confirmed one of the outstanding mares in modern racing history has been retired.


Winning tally

A superb winner of the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the final start of Annie Power’s 17 race career came shortly afterwards with a resounding Aintree Hurdle success which took her winning tally to 15.

The only horse to ever beat the Rich Ricci-owned superstar was More Of That in the 2014 Stayers Hurdle but her only other defeat perhaps ultimately came to be as memorable as any of her victories.

With Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh having had three winners on the first day of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, Annie Power came to the final flight of the OLBG Mares Hurdle with the race seemingly at her mercy only to take a dramatic fall.

That tumble reportedly saved bookmakers up to €60 million in accumulator bets and, despite the Mullins second-string Glens Melody ultimately winning the race, rarely can any festival winner have been so comprehensively overlooked such was the focus on Annie Power’s exit.

A year later she finally made it third time lucky at Cheltenham, becoming the first mare to win the Champion Hurdle in 22 years and earning comparison to the legendary Dawn Run who was trained by Mullins's father Paddy.

“My favourite memory was when she landed running at the back of the last in the Champion Hurdle. After what had happened the year before I was able to enjoy her running up the hill on her own,” Willie Mullins said.

“She might have achieved a higher figure at Aintree, and in beating My Tent Or Yours so much easier there you could argue it was her best display, but just with everything that goes with Cheltenham I’d have been disappointed if we didn’t win one with her.

“At the beginning I bought her for fences, believe it or not, so if I’ve one regret it’s that we never saw her jump a fence because I think she’d have been brilliant. She had so much size and scope about her it was always in my mind,” he added.


Mullins had held out hopes that Annie Power – who is in-foal to the dual-Derby winner Camelot – might be able to run in Paris this summer, but after consulting with Ricci time has been called on her racetrack exploits.

Widely acclaimed as the best mare to race over jumps since Dawn Run, official handicap ratings have Annie Power slightly inferior to her former stable companion, Quevega.

“Annie Power earned a figure of 166 for her last win at Aintree which is a huge mark for a mare. But Quevega was 167 after one of her wins at Punchestown. They were two outstanding mares but Quevega was rated 1lb higher,” said the senior National Hunt handicappere, Noel O’Brien.

“When Annie Power won the Champion Hurdle from My Tent Or Yours we left her unchanged on 162 so her best mark came at Aintree afterwards,” O’Brien added.

Annie Power won all three of her Punchestown starts and the Mullins-Walsh team will fancy their chances of a three-timer at the track on Wednesday.

The Ricci owned Townshend fell at the festival behind Great Field but holds leading claims in the opening novice chase while a first-time tongue-strap could help Senewalk start to live up to his reputation when he returns to action.

The French recruit Herminio is an interesting contender in another maiden hurdle. A three time flat winner in France in 2015, he doesn't need to be any superstar to make a winning debut over jumps.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column