Willie Mullins seems to be all set for another go at two of the big hurdle races at Cheltenham this year.
Hurricane Fly all but tore apart two of the leading novices from last year and proved himself to be a leading contender to win the Champion Hurdle for a third time.
Quevega too looks set to make it’s first appearance of the season yet again at the Festival, and will be looking for her record-breaking fifth David Nicholson Mares Hurdle this year.
It’s all well for those two horses, but it leaves the Irish Champion trainer with a massive question to ask – where for Annie Power?
The unbeaten horse yet again showed her class on Saturday, desolating Aintree Hurdle winner Zarkandar for a second time this season and staying unbeaten in its career.
It seems that Power loves the trip of two mile four furlongs. Unfortunately, there is no race that she could go for at this distance at Cheltenham. What Mullins must look to do is skip the festival this year and aim at the Aintree Hurdle.
A perfect distance for Annie Power, along with a flat track, the Aintree Hurdle is usually a race poorly represented by the Mullins yard and is one he has never won. Thousand Stars has put in a valiant effort the last two years, however a real class horse like Annie Power needs to be entered for the Mullins team.
Usually in the race we see a large number of Champion Hurdle runners entering and some who were in the World Hurdle. It’s an intriguing distance as it splits the two and bares the question of horses having either enough speed or stamina to get home.
Training Annie Power for this race does both. The prize money of £112,000 last year surely must be enough for Mullins to give Cheltenham a miss. Looking at the past two winners in Zarkandar and Oscar Whisky, they were neither a Champion Hurdle nor World Hurdle horses.
It seems Paul Nicholls is aiming for the Aintree Hurdle again the season with Zarkandar, running above two miles thus far in every race.
Clearly Mullins wants Quevega to have glory yet again at Cheltenham, which is fair enough. But I feel that this time next season, it will be Annie Power going for the Mares Hurdle. As for the Champion Hurdle, I think Mullins himself would personally love for Hurricane Fly to win it again.
There is the option of the World Hurdle too. However, will Annie Power get the trip? Three miles plus the hill at Cheltenham in a big field filled with class horses such as Big Bucks and Solwhit is a tough ask.
Annie Power is just a six year old and will have many more years to win at the Festival. Zarkandar is the main threat to the Aintree Hurdle if Nicholls decides to skip Cheltenham. Crushing its rival twice, the Irish Champion trainer should follow in Nicholls’ footsteps and aim for Aintree.
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