The Willie Mullins-trained Annie Power is set to make her eagerly awaited return to the racecourse at the Punchestown Festival later this month.
Staged from Tuesday April 25 to Saturday April 29, the nine-year-old will either head for the G1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, G1 BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle or the G1 Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fun Mares Champion Hurdle.
The daughter of Shirocco won the 2016 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but was ruled out this year’s meeting due to a leg injury.
She has not been since on a racecourse since the April 7 2016, when she decisively plundered the G1 Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle.
However, Mullins has been pleased with how the mare has recuperated from her latest injury setback, meaning all roads now lead to Punchestown.
The return of Annie Power is not only a boost to Closutton handler Mullins but also for racing fan in general as it’s always disappointing when the sport’s biggest stars do not run. Mullins said:
Annie Power is in good order and she is working well in preparation for Punchestown. We’re very happy to have her back obviously and looking forward to seeing her out again.
She’s very adaptable and has top-class form over a variety of trips. Consequently she holds entries in the BETDAQ Champion Hurdle over two miles, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle over two-and-a-half and the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle over three miles so we’ll decide on her target next week.
Mullins also looks set to run a number of other top class horses at Punchestown including Djakadam, who after travelling well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, could only finish fourth in the Blue Riband event. He continued:
I was disappointed with Djakadam’s run in Cheltenham as I thought he was in great form going into the race but hopefully he’ll return to form in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup as he likes this track.
From only four starts over Punchestown’s fences, he has won two John Durkans and finished second in the Gold Cup twice. With two of the last three Cheltenham Gold Cup winners likely to run in this year’s race, Coneygree and Sizing John, it looks like it will be an exceptionally strong renewal, which is as it should be. More and more English owners want runners in Ireland, or now have their horses trained here, because of the excellent prize money on offer.