Ruby Walsh: Annie Power is back in the hood but it’s too early to confirm Cheltenham targets

Annie Power

Annie Power reappears on Wednesday at Punchestown in what is her first run since winning the Grade One Mares Champion Hurdle at the track last May.

She was due to go away for a gallop this week anyway but Willie (Mullins) decided that she might as well have a racecourse outing.

Annie Power wears a hood for the first time to try to help here settle. We’ll have to see how it works  – or if it works – to know for sure whether it will be a long-term thing.

The fact that Willie’s getting a racecourse run into her will lead to a lot of people putting two and two together and ending up with seven.

Willie won’t confirm her Cheltenham target until she’s raced and everything is ok afterwards. There’s still four weeks to the final declaration stage so there’s plenty of time to decide whether she’ll run in the Mares Hurdle or the World Hurdle once we get Wednesday out of the way.

Annie Power
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Hard to beat

I ride Bellow Mome in the Maiden Hurdle but he’ll have to improve a lot on his Leopardstown run at Christmas when fourth to Chain Gang. He works a lot better at home than he ran that day but the ground was very heavy. It’ll be pretty testing on Wednesday too and he may need better ground to show his best.

In the 2m 4f Maiden Hurdle I’ve the leg up on the Gordon Elliott-trained Robin Thyme. I rode him here at the end of January when he was a three-length second to Balko Des Flos, where we both finished a long way clear of the others.

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Black day at Navan

I thought I had the race won on Black Hercules on Sunday when he took a novicy fall at the last. Whether it was going to be a performance to worry No More Heroes or More of That if he was to line up in the RSA Chase is another matter. I’m not sure what his target will be at Cheltenham, but he was the market leader for the four-mile NH Chase and that seems a viable option even after Sunday’s fall.

Sempre Medici was workman-like at Gowran Park on Saturday when winning the Grade Two Red Mills Trail Hurdle but the heavy ground was definitely against him.

His best performance came at Fairyhouse on yielding ground last season – where he beat Identity Thief five and a half lengths in a Grade Two novice hurdle. He’s won his last two starts on ground that didn’t suit and is probably better judged on his Cheltenham run when second to Old Guard in December. He goes to the Champion Hurdle as an each-way outsider but deserves a shot at it at least.

Burst Bubbles

Agrapart paid a big compliment to Yorkhill when bolting up in the Betfair Hurdle. It was a good performance, he jumped well, stayed well & galloped them into the ground. The first two home (Starchitect 2nd after a mistake at the last) underlined the novice form form last year. I thought Kalkir stayed on well in the race to nab sixth and may improve over a bit further.

A couple of bubbles were burst in the other races with L’Ami Serge and Dodging Bullets getting beaten and that won’t have helped their respective Arkle Chase or Champion Chase claims.