Walsh hoping Annie repays faithful call
Ruby Walsh will be hoping that history doesn't repeat itself as he vies to atone for last year's cruel final-flight Cheltenham exit on Annie Power.
A year ago to the day, Walsh was left to watch as Willie Mullins's second string, Glens Melody, capitalised after Annie Power hurled him to the turf with the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at her mercy. The spill cost him a clean sweep of the card's four Grade Ones, a feat that is again on his radar today.
This time, in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, Walsh has eschewed the chance to partner Nichols Canyon and Sempre Medici, as the mighty Annie Power bids to become just the fourth mare to win the championship event.
Yesterday morning, Mullins cut a contented figure as he oversaw his equine legion exercise on the course.
He will field around 60 runners between now and Friday, and, speaking under the shadow of a sun-kissed Cleeve Hill, he was happy to report that there have been no last-minute setbacks.
"We have had no late withdrawals," Mullins revealed. "Our horses have all arrived in great shape and look very relaxed. Normally, they are a bit wound up on the first morning, but we have had none of that this year."
As well as today's four hot favourites Min, Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag, Mullins is also responsible for Un De Sceaux, long odds-on for tomorrow's Betway Champion Chase. He is among 10 declared for the £350,000 two-miler.
Over the past two years, £45m has been spent redeveloping Cheltenham's facilities, including a new grandstand. The Festival is worth £100m to the local economy, a figure somehow dwarfed by the £150m waged by punters in search of a winner. That, ultimately, is what it all comes down to.