2016 Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power has been out of action this season due to a leg injury which stopped her defending her crown at the Cheltenham Festival and prevented her running at the recent Punchestown Festival where she was entered in the Mares Champion Hurdle.
Connections recently revealed that their mare was in foal to the 2012 Investec Derby winner Camelot who is owned by the Coolmore syndicate who also had the winner of the British Classic with Ruler of the World in 2013 and Australia in 2014. Here is a look at the options available to her trainer Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci with their mare.
The prospect of retirement now for Annie Power looks increasingly likely as the mare has not run in 15 months with her last outing being in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle where she beat the field by 18 lengths in an impressive performance at the Merseyside track.
If Annie Power does retire, she will go down in Cheltenham history as she became only the fourth mare to win the Champion Hurdle in 2016. Her record also suggests she is one of the best mares ever seen in the sport as not only did she win 15 of her 17 career starts under rules, she has five Group One successes on her record.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see Annie Power take on her stable Faugheen last season as the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner also had to sit out the campaign with a setback. Despite the absence of his two leading hurdlers, Mullins once again had a fantastic Cheltenham Festival but his form did dip last month where British trainer Colin Tizzard stole the headlines at Punchestown with a number of big-race winners.
A Shot at 2018 Champion Hurdle
At the age of nine, Annie Power is still young enough to wait another season and have another go at the Champion Hurdle in March 2018, where multiple winners are common in the race as nine horses have been successful more than once, including Istabraq who prevailed in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The history book does suggest that would be a difficult task though, as only two 10-year-olds have been successful in the leading 2m hurdle contest in the last 30 years at the meeting.
If the 2018 Champion Hurdle is a realistic target where she is a top price of 16/1odds with Bet Way, Annie Power will need to show a notable improvement before October when the national hunt season really does get going in the UK and Ireland due to the softer ground. Mullins has trained four of the last seven winners of the Champion Hurdle and he will be hoping to improve that record in 2018 with one of his stable stars. Annie Power’s owner Ricci has a soft spot for the mare so he will be desperate for her to return to her best, where she is very capable of mixing it up with the younger horses in the division – including Buveur D’Air who prevailed last month for Nicky Henderson.
Mares only campaign in 2017/18 season
If Mullins can get Annie Power back to full fitness but does not feel the Champion Hurdle route is viable, he could campaign her against her own sex in the 2017/18 season with the end goal being the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Annie Power was looking the most likely winner of the mares’ race at Cheltenham in 2015 when jumping the last, however, she made a mistake at the final obstacle which forced her to come down leaving her stablemate Glens Melody to land the spoils. A return to that race would allow her to settle unfinished business.
The Mares’ Hurdle was inaugurated in 2008 and in the 10 runnings of the race so far, Mullins has been successful on eight occasions. Apple’s Jade finished ahead of the Irish Champion Trainer’s duo of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini back in March in an exciting finish. Those two mares could now go chasing though leaving a path for Annie Power to try and keep up Mullins’ excellent record where she would be a short price favourite to capture the race which could be a good sign as between 2007 and 2016 18 of the 26 horses which have started at odds of evens or shorter have won.
An announcement over Annie Power’s future is unlikely to be made soon as connections will want to wait until the start of the 2017/18 before making a concrete decision.