Mullins wants Annie Power to prove Cheltenham credentials
Willie Mullins, intent on showing his hand for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, mounts a New Year's Day raid on Cheltenham by sending over the unbeaten Annie Power for tomorrow's Dornan Engineering Hurdle.
Mullins gave a glimpse of the strength in his yard when saddling Hurricane Fly for one of the most impressive performances of the season in Sunday's Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown, and now Annie Power gets her chance to stake her claim for a crack at the premier hurdling prize in March.
She is currently a top-priced 12/1 for the Champion Hurdle, over two miles, but she is as low as 6/1 with some firms for the three-mile Ladbrokes World Hurdle. The trainer, however, has not committed her yet to either target.
Tomorrow's race, over an extended two and a half miles on the New Course, gives him another opportunity to assess the mare's capabilities.
"She stays, she has got speed, and she can stay any trip," he said yesterday. "This is a good opportunity for her to get experience at Cheltenham, against good opposition but without having to run in a Grade One."
He admits that the unbeaten Annie Power (eight wins from eight) will inevitably clash with her celebrated stablemate, which holds the world record of 18 Grade One victories.
The Jonjo O'Neill-trained More Of That, as low as 5/1 for the World Hurdle, is an interesting potential rival tomorrow, while Zarkandar also provides depth in a small field.
Hurricane Fly has come out of Sunday's contest in good order, despite having to make up more than 30 lengths in the second half of the race. "He's good this morning but a bit tired," Mullins said. "The race took plenty out of him, but he is good in himself."
Hurricane Fly is vying for favouritism with My Tent Or Yours and The New One, at 3/1, with the sponsor Stan James for the Champion Hurdle.
Mullins also has four entries in Saturday's 32Red Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown Park -- Briar Hill, Gitane du Berlais, Upazo and Vautour -- while David Pipe has put in The Liquidator, one of the favourites for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Festival in March. (© Daily Telegraph, London)