History dawning for Annie Power with Champion entry
Annie Power looks certain to strive to end her Cheltenham Festival hoodoo for Willie Mullins in Tuesday's Stan James Champion Hurdle after she was formally supplemented for the race yesterday at a cost of £20,000 (€25,800).
Since the Grade One was first run in 1927, just three mares have triumphed. Only two have done so since World War II, the first of which, Dawn Run in 1984, was trained by the champion trainer's legendary late father, Paddy.
Ten years later, Flakey Dove became the next mare to achieve glory. Now, as has been well flagged by Mullins and owner Rich Ricci, Annie Power will endeavour to join the immortals.
She was one of 13 unveiled for the £400,000 (515,000) two-miler at yesterday's latest entry stage, with outsider Lil Rockerfeller also supplemented.
Annie Power was thrust to the head of the Champion Hurdle betting when last year's victor and stable-mate Faugheen was ruled out, along with the stable's 2015 runner-up, Arctic Fire.
A top-priced 2/1, the keen eight-year-old danced up at odds of 1/20 against inferior rivals over two-and-a-half miles at Punchestown on February 17, the day that the news broke about Faugheen. Second to More Of That in the 2014 World Hurdle, Annie Power hasn't run over the minimum trip since skating up at Doncaster on her final run before that gallant effort.
The only time she competed against the boys over the trip, she slammed Defy Logic and the Gold Cup favourite Don Cossack in a Grade Two novices' hurdle at Naas all of three years ago.
As such, the scale of the task facing Annie Power is enormous but it adds a massive element of intrigue that connections are willing to pitch her in against the best of what's left.
Her closest market rival at 11/2 is another Closutton colleague, Nichols Canyon, which Ruby Walsh is expected to eschew in favour of Annie Power.
Third in last year's Neptune Novices' Hurdle, the Graham Wylie-owned Nichols Canyon's only other defeat in nine completed hurdle starts came when he was a tame third to Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
With outsider Sempre Medici also an intended starter, Mullins's unprecedented 2015 feat of saddling the first three home is again achievable.
Chief among those with the capacity to foil that prospect is Henry De Bromhead's Identity Thief, while leading the charge to keep the crown at home for a first time since Hurricane Fly initiated a hat-trick of Irish wins in 2013 are the long-absent My Tent Or Yours and The New One, the duo that filled the minor placings behind Jezki in 2014. My Tent Or Yours' trainer Nicky Henderson could also run the first three from last year's Triumph Hurdle, Peace And Co, Top Notch and Hargam.
As was the case in 2015 when Mullins dominated the Tuesday card despite Annie Power's last-flight fall in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, he has a serious hand across the programme.
Vroum Vroum Mag is expected to lead the line in the mares' race, while just 13 have been given the option of taking on Douvan in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy. The well-fancied duo Min and Yorkhill are among nine that he has put forward for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
As had been touted, Mullins has scratched Black Hercules from the four-miler, but Roi Des Francs is one of seven from which he can still choose.
Mullins' Champion Bumper favourite Augusta Kate will also vie to do her bit for the girls. She is in at Sandown on Saturday but Wylie has stated that the mare will get the chance to emulate Mucklemeg and Total Enjoyment by triumphing for the fairer sex in Wednesday's Grade One.
After 28mm of overnight rain, the going at Prestbury Park was yesterday eased to soft all round. However, it is now forecast for it to stay dry there.