More glory for awesome Annie Power
Annie Power reduced the gap between Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls in the British Champion Trainer title race to just £20,000 yesterday when she ran out a facile winner of the Doom Bar Hurdle at Aintree yesterday.
On a day when it did not all go smoothly for horses which had starred at Cheltenham, she managed to extend her margin of superiority over Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours to 18 lengths.
Though she gave her trainer a terrific boost in his quest, she will not have to do an awful lot more herself before she is hailed as one of the greatest jumping mares. "That was her third run of the season so I thought she might have improved since Cheltenham, or at the very least she wouldn't have gone backwards," said Mullins.
Ruby Walsh confirmed she had been as good if not better than she was at Cheltenham.
"She's a cracking mare and is now getting the plaudits she deserves," he said. "The only time she's been beat when she's stood up is in the World Hurdle over three miles and even then she was only beaten half-a-length."
After his Apple's Jade had reversed Triumph Hurdle form in some style with Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Betfred Anniversary Hurdle, Mullins was out of luck in the Betfred Bowl with his pair Don Poli and a flat Djakadam, filling the minor places behind Cue Card.
Tomorrow's National winner may have some competition for the most popular winner at Aintree this week if the reception given to Colin Tizzard's chaser is anything to go by.
Racing is full of ifs, buts and maybes. However, you would certainly have to think the 10-year-old would have gone very close at Cheltenham had he not fallen three out in the Gold Cup.
"I think he might have won," said Tizzard, before adding pragmatically, "but you have to jump and that fall might not have been wasted on him."
Paddy Brennan, for whom it was a good confidence-booster before he rides Saint Are in tomorrow's National, sat just behind the Mullins pair which went two miles stride for stride. But when Brennan went to the front three out it was almost as if he had just joined in, and they came home nine lengths clear.
Donald McCain's family is inextricably linked to Aintree. He has had a difficult season but Katachenko's hard-fought victory in the Betfred Red Rum Chase was a welcome and appropriate tonic.
Like Harry Whittington's Arzal, which capped a wonderful year for the third-season trainer by winning the Grade One Manifesto Chase, Katachenko benefited by arriving at Aintree fresh without having run at Cheltenham.
Annie Power apart, the only other Cheltenham winner to double up was Enda Bolger's On The Fringe which completed the Foxhunters double - thanks to an assured steer from Jamie Codd who stepped in for the suspended Nina Carberry. (© Daily Telegraph, London)