Power could charm Fairyhouse crowd
The sense that this weekend's Easter festival at Fairyhouse might be charmed has been reinforced by the appearance of Annie Power's illustrious name among the entries for a Grade Two hurdle on Monday.
With AP McCoy set to grace the Co Meath venue for his final appearances in the saddle on Irish soil and the possibility of Vautour running in Sunday's Ryanair Chase, the three-day gatherering was already shaping up to be a little bit special.
Having run in only Grade Ones for over a year, Monday's €52,500 Keelings Irish Strawberry-sponsored two-and-a-half-mile contest wasn't an obvious target for Vautour's Willie Mullins-trained stable-mate Annie Power.
However, after witnessing his talented seven-year-old crash at the final flight on her Cheltenham return with the mares' hurdle at her mercy, the trainer has given her the option of dropping down in grade. Last year's winner Thousand Stars, which hasn't run since June, is also among Mullins' five potential starters, as is his Champion Hurdle runner-up Arctic Fire.
With such an array of equine talent, the Carlow-based wizard is keen to explore every available option. He has suggested that Hurricane Fly might tackle the French Champion Hurdle via the Punchestown Festival, with his newly-crowned two-mile king Faugheen expected to be among those given the option of stepping up in trip for next week's Aintree Hurdle.
Along with Sunday's Grade One Ryanair Chase, the following day's Boylesports Irish Grand National is one of a small handful of marquee domestic events that Mullins has yet to plunder. He has two chances of doing so this year, with Dogora and Perfect Gentleman still engaged after yesterday's five-day entry stage, at which point the list for the prestigious €275,000 handicap was reduced to 45.
Noel Meade's Wounded Warrior is the new top weight on 11st after his Gigginstown Stud owners scratched the Aintree-bound Don Cossack, with William Kinsey's Alpha Victor (9st 5lb), one of five cross-channel entries, the last guaranteed a run in berth 30.
At the moment, Robert Tyner's Embracing Change, Mouse Morris' Rogue Trader and Tom Taaffe's Heaney fill the three reserve places, which will be left open until 10.0 Sunday morning following tomorrow's declarations.
Tony Martin's Gallant Oscar and Jim Dreaper's Goonyella are also still engaged further up the page, but they are among those not expected to take part, as the Aintree version on Saturday week is their stated target. The big market mover yesterday was Philip Hobbs' If In Doubt, as he now appears to be the JP McManus representative most likely to be ridden by McCoy.
Fifth to Don Poli in the RSA, If In Doubt is the second top-weight on 10st 12lb. He has been cut from 14/1 into 10/1, leaving him vying for favouritism with Gallant Oscar. McManus also has Tom Mullins' Alderwood (10st 5lb), Paul Webber's Cantlow (9st 11lb) and Edward O'Grady's Gallant Tipp (8st 11lb) in the race.
Tyner's Embracing Change was likewise trimmed to 10/1 in places, with Dermot McLoughlin's Cork National hero and Paddy Power Chase third Vics Canvas (9st 13lb) backed from 20/1 into 12/1 with the headline sponsors.
Meanwhile, Curragh handler Bill Farrell plans to step Ramone up in class after her shock win in Sunday's Park Express Stakes at headquarters. Just the second horse to win an Irish Group race at 100/1 following Miss Therese's Blandford Stakes success in 1973, the five-year-old will now be trained for the Group Two Lanwades Stud Stakes at the track on May 23.
"She will get an entry on Guineas weekend," Farrell confirmed. "It will depend on the ground as she wants an ease and it is a Group Two, so it will be a step up. Other than that, we are going to maybe have to travel a bit."