Only two mares have won the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle in its 20-year history. But Annie Power is set to be a major player in this Sunday's centrepiece to Fairyhouse's triple-Grade One "Winter Festival" card.
Trainer Willie Mullins has confirmed that the hugely popular mare will make her first start of the new campaign in the €80,000 contest. She will be joined in the two and a half miles event by the 2012 winner, Zaidpour, who is also owned by Rich Ricci.
A possible switch to fences had been mooted for Annie Power this season. “We took a long time thinking about it,” Mullins said, “but felt there were more opportunities over hurdles. She has form at the track and over the distance and is in good form.”
Annie Power has been beaten just once in a dozen career starts: when runner up to More of That in last season’s World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The last mare to win the Hatton’s Grace was Voler La Vedette in 2011, while Solerina scored a memorable hat-trick between 2003 and 2005.
“Zaidpour hopefully will be a second-string,” Mullins said. “He’s won the race before and has his chance. He should be fine on the ground and has had a run already this season.”
Just 13 horses remain in the Hatton’s Grace ahead of the important five-day forfeit stage, which will also see acceptors for both the Drinmore Novice Chase and the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
However, last year’s winner, Jezki, as well as 2010 winner Hurricane Fly, is reportedly likely to wait for Christmas to appear next. Faugheen, the current Champion Hurdle favourite, reappeared at Ascot just three days ago.
Mullins has also confirmed that Valseur Lido, an impressive winner of his first chase start at Punchestown earlier this month, is due to line up in a potentially hugely informative Drinmore.
Dermot Weld plans to run his former high-class flat performer Tandem in the Royal Bond.
After eight winners from just 13 runners over last weekend, the Mullins team faces into another potentially lucrative two days this weekend, with Djakadam a general 4-1 favourite to land Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
One of Djakadam's main opponents is likely to be last year's Hennessy runner-up, Rocky Creek, also runner-up to Road to Riches at Down Royal last time.