Annie Power might not have things all her own way
OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, 2m4f Old Course (due off 4.00pm)
Assuming she runs here instead of the World Hurdle, Annie Power will go off one of the shortest-priced favourites at the entire meeting – only stablemate Un De Sceaux (Arkle) could go off shorter. And she’s fully entitled to as her rating of 162 casts a huge shadow over the rest of the field and she wouldn’t be out of place in the World Hurdle, in which she finished second in 12 months ago, nor the Champion Hurdle (which was touted at one stage) for that matter.
Picking the winner of this race used to be easy with Quevega turning up on her reappearance each season to pulverise the opposition an incredible fives times in a row and the similarities with Annie Power are striking as she’s from the same stable and will be making her seasonal reappearance (not strictly true as her Punchestown win last May falls into this season). The difference being Annie Power’s absence has been enforced due to a small injury and that just leaves a nagging doubt. Will she be at her very best? Top-price: 4/7 bet365
Who else is fancied?
Willie Mullins has a stranglehold on this race as he also runs the second favourite Glen’s Melody, who bounced back to winning form last time at Warwick and made Quevega pull out all the stops 12 months ago. The fact that Mullins says he has her in the same sort of form is ominous and she must be thereabouts again. Last year’s third, the Alan King-trained L’Unique has to be respected and you can ignore her three below-par runs this term as she’s a spring mare. Polly Peacham hasn’t been seen out since pulling up at Kempton in November but it was bottomless ground that day and she’ll leave that run well behind on a better surface.
Any decent outsiders?
Carole’s Spirit has won four of her six starts over hurdles, including in Listed company, with her two defeats coming in Grade 2 mares’ hurdle races at Ascot, the last of which was when she was beaten just half a length by the reopposing Bitofapuzzle. Never out of the first four in 11 starts, you can’t fault her consistency, although there are three obstacles to Cheltenham glory: better ground than she’s used to, a shorter trip and the Mullins brigade. Several others have something to recommend them – most notably the improving Little King Robin – but they will need career-best efforts even to get into the frame.
Trainer quote: “She ran a stormer at Cheltenham last year and I have her in the same form having won her prep race at Warwick this season for the second successive year. She’ll be up against Annie Power, but I think a repeat of her run 12 months ago would make her very interesting.” – Willie Mullins on Glen’s Melody.
Best bookie offer
New customers at BetVictor can get 6/1 on a Mullins-trained winner (he’s got two stabs here!) on day one of the festival, albeit to a £5 maximum stake. Taking on Annie Power? Get your money back (as a free bet up to £25) if your horse finishes second to the SP (starting price) favourite in any live Channel-4 race.
If Annie Power turns up even close to her best she will win hands down but there’s enough doubt there to take her on with the stable second-string GLENS MELODY, who looks sure to run her race.
Glen’s Melody @ 5/1 Boylesports (money back if second to Annie Power)