Atonement for Annie as Mullins mare delivers with Champion style
Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30
Ruby Walsh struggled to hold back the tears after evoking the spirit of the great Dawn Run to finally set Annie Power's Cheltenham Festival record straight.
After a gallant 2014 World Hurdle defeat and last year's heart-breaking final flight exit in the mares' race, it was a case of third-time lucky for Willie Mullins's brilliant mare.
Under a typically composed front-running steer from the Festival's most successful rider, Annie Power made the running en route to an emphatic Champion Hurdle victory.
Annie Power was only added to the field as a supplementary entry last week at a cost of £20,000 after an injury to Mullins's outgoing title-holder, Faugheen. Yet, dropped back to two miles for a first time in over two years, she grabbed her destiny with aplomb.
"Willie asked me the other day what I was going to do, and I'd looked up Dawn Run the other night," Walsh subsequently revealed. "I said I was going to ride her like she's Dawn Run; if they catch me, they catch me.
"She has put in a brilliant performance and it was brilliant of (owners) Rich and Susannah (Ricci) to supplement her. She's a cracking mare."
In an poignant exchange on Channel 4, Walsh referred to another Annie, a six-year-old "friend of the stable", who is battling leukaemia.
"There's a little Annie in Ireland watching this Annie and she'll be all-right too," he said.
He, Mullins and Ricci suffered a reversal when Min was outclassed by Altior in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
As is their custom now, though, they still took the card by storm, with Douvan and Vroum Vroum Mag bookending a short-priced trio to ensure that Irish punters departed in green.