It is disappointing to say the least that Annie Power has been ruled out defending her Champion Hurdle crown.
Her win last year was amazing and it can never be taken away from her. It was great to finally get across the line in front as she tipped up at the last with the Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy and was beaten into second in the World Hurdle in her two previous visits to the Festival.
It’s too early to say whether she’ll miss the rest of this season as we don’t know yet how much box rest she’ll need to get over her leg injury.
All we know at the moment is that she won’t be ready in time for the Festival and we’ll have to see whether she makes it back later in the season.
It’s a big blow, but what can you do? It’s something all trainers, jockeys and owners face every day in racing. It just harder to take when a champion who has won 15 of her 17 races gets injured.
I’m fortunate in that our 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen is due to make his reappearance in the Irish Champion Hurdle on Sunday at Leopardstown.
Is there any extra pressure on Faugheen now? I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know Annie Power is injured, but whatever he achieves will be on his own merits.
All the opposition will have a race-fitness edge over him that’s for sure, but Faugheen is top class.
He’s rated 176 but whether he can run to that rating first time out after 12 months out is hopefully what we’ll find out if he lines up at the weekend.
I don’t know why there seems to be some chat around Yorkhill for the Champion Hurdle, as he’s not even entered for the March 14 showpiece.
Willie Mullins may have made a comment about him reverting to hurdles next season if things don’t work out over fences – but if there was to be a change of heart, Yorkhill needs to be entered for the Champion Hurdle first. Then the speculation can start.
I was happy with his novice chase win on Sunday and even though a few people have had a gripe about his performance, Yorkhill has never been flashy horse and usually only does enough in his races.
He ran a bit keen on Sunday in the middle of the race, but I was happy with him and am looking forward to riding him again wherever he runs.
But I’ve three rides at Gowran Park first on Thursday …
He’s rated 3lbs above Shaneshill and they run off level weights here. This is a competitive, tight race, and Clondaw Warrior was second to Vroum Vroum Mag at Christmas after Shaneshill fell at the last.
It’s hard to know if he would have gotten past him if Shaneshill had stayed up. But I can’t ride two in the race so I’ve opted for Clondaw Warrior.
Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon eventually finished third at Leopardstown to Vroum Vroum Mag after taking a heavy fall at Newbury in his previous start. It’s a good contest.
The feature race of the day is the Thyestes Chase and Pleasant Company reappears after 272 days off the track. He’s rated 148 and carries 11 stone 1b. He’s in good form, we think he’ll run a good race, but it’s a big ask to win such a competitive race on your seasonal debut.
Willie Mullins has two reserves in Sambremont and The Crafty Butcher (Noel Meade has Texas Jack) but we won’t know until probably Thursday morning whether any of them get in.
Gordon Elliott’s horses are flying and Ucello Conti was placed in this race last year. His Prince of Scars looks well handicapped on his hurdles form and Jack Kennedy is aboard.
The trip should suit, he carries 10-7, the only thing he may want is the ground a little bit softer.
The form of the Troytown Chase at Navan last December is working out well, so Noel Meade’s Bonny Kate looks to have a live chance on the back of that run. She could be well treated.
Dicosimo ran disappointingly over fences at Limerick and would have to improve to win this. Willie also runs the JP McManus-owned Great Field who was a decent hurdler last year, is in great form at home and is probably the one to beat.