Annie looks to have too much power
Annie Power has the perfect opportunity to gain a confidence-boosting triumph in the mares' hurdle on today's Punchestown finale.
Willie Mullins' exceptional daughter of Shirocco has endured a mixed time of things since getting outgunned by More Of That in a thrilling 2014 World Hurdle. A year ago, she recorded her latest win in this €100,000 Grade One, destroying vastly inferior opposition at odds of 1/6. Then she crashed when set to canter up in the mares' race at Cheltenham.
In the greater scheme of things, mares-only Grade Ones don't warrant their inflated status. However, as is the case with the general bloating of the race programme, it seems the priority these days is to have more races, not better races.
Annie Power's closest rival on ratings today is Analifet, her stablemate. There is a gulf in class between them of 20lbs, with another four back to the smart Katie T. Barring accidents, it's hard to imagine that it will be anything other than a race in the loosest sense of the word - again.
In contrast, the rest of the card is as competitive as it should be for a festival like this.
2.35 Boomerang Animal Bedding Chase (banks) 3m
Sizing Australia is on a hat-trick in this. The veteran has to concede weight but his latest run over hurdles was encouraging.
Prosperity Square tries a new discipline having won over fences here in October, while Tuesday's winner Wish Ye Didnt has more on now. Are Ya Right Chief knows this job and Federici got a taste for it when third in February.
Verdict: Federici can do better.
3.10 Ladbrokes Handicap Chase 3m 6f
Thunder And Roses is nine pounds higher for his Irish Grand National win but David Mullins takes five pounds off. Still, this looks tough under a big weight.
Portrait King was running well in the Grand National when falling three-out, while stylish Navan winner Heathfield is a progressive novice. Embracing Change beat Portrait King here in February and remains a contender off a 13lb higher mark.
Verdict: David Casey can extend Embracing Change's sequence.
3.50 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 2f
Annie Power had the mares' race at Cheltenham at her mercy when she fell. On all known form, she is simply in a different class to any of today's rivals, provided she is none the worse for her spill. Analifet has been running well, but Katie T, impressive on the Flat at Limerick, might be best equipped to take advantage if Annie Power isn't at her usual high level. She was impressive in a valuable hurdle at Leopardstown, but that was off a mark of 126. Annie Power is rated 162.
Verdict: Katie T is respected but not as much as Annie Power.
4.25 AES Champion 4-y-o Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
The form of Qualando's Fred Winter win at Cheltenham is solid in the context of this race; he is on an upward curve. Pain Au Chocolat looked very useful before tiring badly in the Triumph Hurdle, while Buiseness Sivola, Ruby Walsh's choice, built on his respectable effort in the Fred Winter to scoot up at Fairyhouse.
Petit Parisienne lost little in defeat to Bitofapuzzle at Fairyhouse. Back in her own age group, she will be a big player.
Verdict: There are a lot of positives about Petit Parisienne.
5.00 Palmerstown House Handicap Chase 3m 1f
Having missed the Grand National, Gallant Oscar gets his chance here. He caught the eye when third at Cheltenham and doubtless has more to give on his eighth chasing start. He is better off at the weights with Cheltenham second Grand Jesture, which refused to race when fancied at Sandown last week.
Irish Grand National runner-up Rule The World and Katnap, second to Heathfield last time, are other consistent sorts.
Verdict: Trust Mark Walsh to get a tune out of Gallant Oscar.
5.35 Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f
Sort It Out finished a fine second in what was a decent County Hurdle at Cheltenham. He is just two pounds higher here.
Princely Conn got cut up on the final bend when he was running well in the same race, while Hash Brown is another JP McManus runner that makes its handicap bow on its first run since the autumn. He was progressing quickly when last seen.
Macnicholson turns out after running a blinder on Tuesday, while Arbre De Vie was fourth in Grade One company over further at Cheltenham.
Of the six raiders, the Cotswolds runner-up Monetaire is interesting back over hurdles in first-time blinkers.
Verdict: Sort It Out (Nap) has the scope to run a big race.
6.10 K Club Hotel INH Flat Race 2m
The Gigginstown Stud duo of Nambour and Everyday Everyhour both won a point-to-point.
It's hard to gauge the rest, but Regal Empress is a Presenting sister to some decent horses, including Thunder And Roses.
Verdict: Willie Mullins' Nambour may be the percentage call.