Perfect ten for Annie
Annie Power enhanced her Cheltenham Festival claims with an effortless win in the OLBG.com Doncaster Mares' Hurdle on Town Moor.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old has the Champion Hurdle over two miles, the World Hurdle over three miles and even the OLBG Mares' race as potential options in March, and this was no more than a most impressive stroll.
Ruby Walsh set out to make every yard of the running on his only mount of the day and the giant mare gradually ground her rivals into submission.
While she was sent off at the prohibitive price of 1-6 favourite to oblige, she did have a smart rival in the shape of John Quinn's Cockney Sparrow, who had finished a three-length second in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle to My Tent Or Yours. However, she fell at the second-last.
Donald McCain's Doyly Carte was left in second but she was no match for Annie Power, who followed up wins at Ascot and Cheltenham this season in effortless style to take her career record to 10 out of 10, despite a minor blip at the last.
Walsh, who afforded himself a good look round on the run to the last, said: "She was a bit keen early on today but she travelled well all the way.
"You should never look because you know you've won and you get indecisive and that's what happened.
"She was very slick over her hurdles and she's just a very good mare. She's 10 from 10 and I'm glad to be riding her.
"Good horses aren't complicated, complicated ones don't tend to be good ones.
"If she's fit, sound healthy and well, the race (at Cheltenham) will pick itself. Getting there would be the big thing in my eyes."
Owner Rich Ricci said: "I think she jumped brilliantly apart from the last one. I always get nervous when they go to the last and there must be a better way than trying to run down the hurdle and take it easy or jump it like you've got to win. There should be something in between!
"It was a shame Cockney Sparrow fell, but I think we had the beating of her and there's some collateral form there with My Tent Or Your. We were very good.
"That's three times travelling. I'd like to have run her at home, but it's worked out very well.
"I think next time it's Cheltenham. I'm trying to be transparent (about a target). I've been with Willie since 2005 and it's always the same. We didn't decide to run Champagne Fever in the Supreme until after he had worked the Thursday before. That's how it is.
"We haven't had a chat about it yet. I'm sure we will. I'm sensitive to the yard. He's got a lot of horses to mind and he's got to balance them all out.
"It's my first visit to Doncaster. It's fantastic and we'll be back."
Mullins was at Leopardstown, where he said: "I was surprised how soft the ground was at Doncaster, but that wasn't any harm.
"She's getting used to travelling, and hopefully three trips across to England haven't taken a lot out of her but we'll see how she comes back. The forecast is so bad, I don't know whether she's going to get back until Monday or Tuesday, but we'll see, she might be lucky and get out.
"She's a wonderfully filly and hopefully we can add one or two more wins after that."
Paddy Power left Annie Power unchanged at 7-2 for the World Hurdle and 7-1 for the Champion Hurdle.
RaceBets make her 3-1 to win any race at the Festival, with spokesman Joseph Burke saying: "Annie Power was tremendous at Doncaster again, showing her versatility as well as her class. She is a genuine prospect for the Champion Hurdle, Mares' Hurdle and the World Hurdle and while the former is surely the most likely option at this stage, plans still remain fluid, so we've tried to take some of the guesswork out of it for punters."