I thought some of the reaction to Annie Power’s success at Ascot last Saturday was a trifle amusing.
Annie Power was afforded plenty of credit for her five lengths defeat of Zarkandar, but much of it was qualified, on the basis she was in receipt of 11lbs from her main rival.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how so much importance was attached to that. The bottom line is every day she ventures into Grade 1 company will be getting the 7lbs mares’ allowance anyway, so why another paltry 4lbs should have exercised the minds of so many was a bit surprising.
Does anyone seriously believe that Annie Power wouldn’t have been far too good for Zarkandar getting just the 7lbs?
Make no mistake about it this was a very good performance on the part of the mare and puts her right in the Champion Hurdle mix.
She went to Ascot with just four races over flights under her belt and, in three of them, would have learned very little.
Last season Annie Power won two egg-and-spoon contests, at Thurles and Clonmel, and finished her campaign with success in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse, where she was simply far too good for rivals who were all of her own sex.
The one race where she was educated was her second last outing, a Grade 2 at Naas. She quickened in style in the closing stages, it was a two-miler, to beat Defy Logic and Don Cossack.
It looked a terrific display on the day, but the passage of time has actually begun to devalue that particular bit of form.
No, Zarkandar was far and away the best horse Annie Power has ever met and she ended up running clear of him from the back of the final flight.
She made some novicey mistakes at vital stages and that made her performance all the more meritorious.
The Ascot heat was over two miles, three and a half furlongs and you could argue she shaped more like stayer than a speed horse. That could very well be the case.
All the evidence right at the moment is that Annie Power simply isn’t good enough to win the Champion Hurdle.
But the race isn’t being run in the immediate future and who knows what improvement she will find between now and March.
Mares, generally speaking, are not to be recommended as betting mediums, but when they are especially good can be quite extraordinary, Dawn Run and Quevega surely being the best examples.
What Annie Power needs next is to run over two miles, on a fast track. Could Kempton at Christmas be on the radar?
A couple of weeks ago here we mentioned three horses that had large question marks again them, Long Run, Sizing Europe and First Lieutenant, following below-par efforts.
Well Long Run was the first of them to emerge from the shadows and again disappointed at Haydock on Saturday.
Also in that Haydock race was Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Bobs Worth, and he has to be added to the list.
He was very good to us at Cheltenham in March, but had a desperately hard race and you’d have to wonder if it has taken its toll.
He ran a shocker at Haydock and all the explanations forthcoming from connections were less than convincing.
Nicky Henderson seemed confident enough in an interview before the race, emphasising that this was a big prize in its own right and Bobs Worth was ready to go.
We know Haydock probably didn’t suit, that Cheltenham is his track and the ground was on the soft side.
But you just couldn’t be with Bobs Worth again, at least not until he indicates is capable of getting back to something approaching his best.
All the talk, from a number of good judges, about the sparkling gallop Ballycasey did at Punchestown, drove plenty of us into the horse at Navan last Sunday.
The two miles and a furlong did seem on the short side for him, but he had reportedly displayed buckets of speed at Punchestown and so that became of little concern.
Well, out on the course it soon became a major concern, with Ballycasey looking to be woefully short of pace and on his head for most of the trip.
In the end his stamina finally kicked in and he won in a canter, by eight lengths, but you would need to be nuts to ever want to be with him over such a trip again.
Noel Meade’s Apache Stronghold was impressive when taking a Grade 2 hurdle, on the bridle, at Navan, beating the somewhat puzzling Azorian.
Eoin Griffin’s charge jumped mad left when winning his maiden at Cork and going in the opposite direction, you thought, would be the making of him.
But he seemed to be hanging left and right and, but for the fact Davy Russell is as powerful as they come in the saddle, might even have run off the track early on the final circuit.
Azorian definitely possesses a big engine, but if ever a horse needs help it is him. The psychiatrist’s chair could be on the agenda, were he human, but that’s not an option, so perhaps a hood might work the oracle.
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