Willie Mullins expects Annie Power to return to full training following the busy Christmas period after scans revealed her injuries were not as bad as feared.
The top-class mare was set to make her reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday, but was found to be lame on Friday and was immediately withdrawn from the Grade One contest.
The champion trainer feared the six-year-old could have suffered a stress fracture, which would have meant eight to 10 weeks’ box rest.
“Annie [Power] will walk until Christmas and be checked again and then hopefully be back to full training. No fracture. Just a stress reaction,” said Mullins.
Owned by Rich Ricci, Annie Power lost her unbeaten record when second to More Of That in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, before bouncing back at Punchestown.
Mullins is hopeful she will return to Prestbury Park in March and has not ruled out giving her a prep run.
“We hope to make it [to Cheltenham]. If we can we will run before.”
Noel Meade is considering a tilt at The Ladbroke at Ascot for recent Fairyhouse scorer Waxies Dargle.
The five-year-old, who carries the colours of leading owner JP McManus, was an impressive winner on his latest appearance at Fairyhouse last month, having previously ran promisingly in a competitive handicap at Down Royal.
The five-year-old is part of a six-strong Irish entry for the £150,000 (€190,000) contest, with a total of 41 horses in contention for the December 20 event.
Meade said: “We will have to see what weight we get, what has top-weight and what the race is looking like before we commit, but The Ladbroke is something we will consider for Waxies Dargle.
“He has taken his race at Fairyhouse well and is in good form. On ratings, he was entitled to win it and he did it well enough.
“I think he is a nice horse and we hoped he had improved a bit coming into this season because some of the horses were not quite right in the spring.
“If the ground is soft at Ascot, I would say that will not be an inconvenience to him.”
Mullins has entered Clondaw Warrior, who was third in the Greatwood Hurdle, while Gordon Elliott has both Bayan and Shadow Catcher on the list. The Irish contenders are completed by the Tony Martin-trained Pyromaniac, and Sea Beat from Arthur Moore’s stable.
Sign Of A Victory is the 5/1 favourite following his hugely impressive victory in the Listed William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on November 1st.
His trainer, Nicky Henderson, has recorded three triumphs in The Ladbroke since it was moved to Ascot in 2001, courtesy of Chauvinist (2002), Jack The Giant (2007) and Sentry Duty (2008).
Cheltenham Festival-winner Spring Heeled is having his campaign built around the 2015 Grand National.
The seven-year-old clinched the Kim Muir at the big meeting in March, a little under 24 hours before stable companion Lord Windermere claimed Gold Cup glory to give trainer Jim Culloty a festival double from only two runners.
Culloty won the National in 2002 on Bindaree and believes Spring Heeled has all the right credentials — as long as the ground is not soft. “He’s in brilliant order but he’s not a winter horse,” said Culloty.