Annie Power looks set to follow Quevega festival route in mare’s hurdle

Leopardstown officials not expecting any weather problems for Sunday’s action

Annie Power and Ruby Walsh on the way to winning the European Breeders Fund Mares Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, Punchestown, Co Kildare last May. Photograph: Inpho

Annie Power and Ruby Walsh on the way to winning the European Breeders Fund Mares Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, Punchestown, Co Kildare last May. Photograph: Inpho

 

BRIAN O’CONNOR Quevega became a Cheltenham legend by winning the OLBG Hurdle six times and it appears the now-retired mare’s former stable companion Annie Power will attempt to become her successor to the newly promoted Grade One opening-day festival crown.

Despite also holding entries in both the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle, Annie Power is as short as 4/5 favourite for the OLBG and Willie Mullins is leaning towards keeping the Rich Ricci-owned star to her own sex.

Annie Power hasn’t run since early May of last year and missed November’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle due to a leg problem which initially threatened to rule her out of action this season but which scans revealed to be no more than a stress reaction.

Winning streak “Annie is fine and back riding out,” Mullins said. “And the mares looks the most likely race for her.”

Whether or not the champion trainer will be able to get a prep race into Annie Power before the festival in March is unclear but Quevega specialised in making her first start of the season at Cheltenham during a six-year winning streak between 2009 and 2014.

Annie Power is something of a statistical phenomenon too, with only one defeat in her dozen career starts coming at last year’s festival when finishing runner up to More Of That in the World Hurdle over three miles.

She has won both her career starts over the two-and-a-half mile distance of the OLBG, including at Cheltenham on New Years Day 2014 when beating Zarkandar.

Mullins appears determined to keep his options open among his ultra-powerful team of novices, with the champion trainer leaving both Vautour and the Drinmore-winner Valseur Lido among five entries for this Sunday’s Grade Two Killiney Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The Closutton horses make up half of the total entry for the race, which comes a week before the Frank Ward Arkle at the same track. Gordon Elliott has also left his Christmas Grade One-winner Clarcam in this weekend’s black-type feature.

Thirty-one entries remain in the Boylesports Hurdle on Sunday, one of two €100,000 handicaps on the card, and the big sponsor’s initial reaction was to leave Nicky Henderson’s Snake Eyes as a 7-1 favourite.

No cross channel-trained horse has won the race in 18 years but John Quinn’s Kashmir Peak is another possible raider for the hurdles prize.

Eighteen remain in the €100,000 Chase, including the Mullins pair, Djakadam and Dogora, as well as the Paddy Power runner-up Foxrock, which has only Marito above him in the weights.

Unsettled weather Despite an unsettled weather outlook this week, Leopardstown officials are not anticipating problems with Sunday’s action going ahead.

“The going is soft on both hurdle and chase tracks. There is some rain coming in but we’re not anticipating any difficulties for the weekend,” said chief executive Pat Keogh.

The going is also currently soft at Naas, which hosts the Grade Two Woodlands Park Novice Chase over three miles on Saturday, a race in which Valseur Lido also features among 10 entries after the latest forfeit stage. Lots Of Memories, third to Don Poli over Christmas, is another possible starter.

The Naas card also includes the Grade Three Limestone Lad Hurdle for which nine remain, including Edward O’Grady’s highly regarded Limerick winner, Kitten Rock.

Solwhit won the event in 2013 en-route to landing the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

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