Annie Power: “out of Cheltenham and possibly the rest of the season”
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
By Richard Forristal 10:09AM 25 JAN 2017
ANNIE POWER will not defend her Stan James Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham after Willie Mullins revealed the brilliant mare has suffered a fresh leg injury.
Only two days ago, Mullins had issued an upbeat bulletin on the exceptional nine-year-old ahead of her intended return at Punchestown on February 22 in the same race in which she made her reappearance last year.
However, after pleasing the champion trainer in another piece of work on Tuesday morning, she gave him some cause for concern on Tuesday night.
Mullins confirmed on Wednesday morning that she had suffered a leg injury. While details remain unclear, he said it was unrelated to the setback that kept her off the track between May 2015 and her belated reappearance last year.
“Annie Power worked yesterday and worked well but I wasn’t happy with her last night,” Mullins told the Racing Post. “It was confirmed this morning that she has suffered a leg injury.
“It’s not the same injury as before but it will definitely rule her out of Cheltenham and possibly the rest of the season, although it is too early to say for sure at this stage.”
At the launch of the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle on Monday, Mullins had for the first time indicated that he would be willing to pitch Annie Power and Faugheen in against each other should they both get to Cheltenham at the top of their game come March.
Now, his hopes will rest with Faugheen, who has not run since trouncing the opposition in last year’s Irish Champion Hurdle.
The news of Annie Power’s absence from Cheltenham had a dramatic effect on the ante-post markets.
Stablemate Faugheen is now a best-priced 13-8 – although as low as 4-5 in a place – for the Champion Hurdle, while Yanworth (4-1 from 9-2) and Petit Mouchoir (6-1 from 7) have also shortened up.
Paddy Power, who go non-runner no bet, have Racing Post Arkle favourite Altior quoted at 3-1 and JLT Novices’ Chase favourite Yorkhill at 5-1.
Annie Power was also a leading fancy for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, a race for which the Mullins-trained Vroum Vroum Mag heads the betting at 7-4 (from 2).
Apple’s Jade is next best at 2-1 (9-4), while Limini, who like Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag is trained by Mullins and owned by Susannah Ricci, has been cut to 4-1 (from 7).