Annie Power in shake-up for Mares’ redemption at Cheltenham

Annie Power tops 45 entries for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 15.

Willie Mullins’ charge looked set for victory in the two-and-a-half-mile heat last year only to crash out at the final flight.

The eight-year-old has been successful on 12 of her 14 starts, with her only defeats coming at Cheltenham last spring and in the 2014 World Hurdle, in which she finished second.

Mullins has six entries in total, including Morning Run, successful on six of her seven starts, Grade One scorer Petite Parisienne and Vroum Vroum Mag.

Mags Mullins’ Ballychorus is another leading name among 16 Irish contenders after falling twice when in contention in competitive chases.

Northern Ireland handler Ben Arthey has yet to saddle a runner at Cheltenham but is aiming Jennys Melody at the Mares’ Hurdle.

The seven-year-old scored impressively in novice company at Sedgefield and Newcastle last season before rounding off her campaign by defeating seasoned opposition in a mares’ handicap hurdle at Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting in April.

Arthey said: “Jennys Melody had a bit of a setback after she won at Ayr so that is why she has not run yet this season.

“It wasn’t career-threatening but it kept reoccurring and held us up. We are getting her going again now.

“She has to improve a hell of lot again to take on the likes of Annie Power but if you are not in, you can’t win and we thought she was worth an entry. She is physically much stronger than she was at this time last year.

“I think she probably is better on good ground, but has won on heavy ground, too.

“We could look at taking her over for a Listed race at Warwick (OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, February 13) for her comeback run and see where we go from there.”

Other leading hopes include Aurore D’Estruval, last year’s runner-up Polly Peachum, The Govaness and Bitofapuzzle. OLBG sponsor a series of six races on the road to Cheltenham and the winners of the first three events – Blue Buttons (Harry Fry), Morello Royale (Colin Tizzard) and Lily Waugh (Anthony Honeyball) – have all been entered.

  • Kieren Fox has been hit with a 33-day suspension, 11 of which have been deferred, after he was referred to the British Horseracing Authority over his use of the whip.

The jockey was handed the punishment following his ride on the John Best-trained Lupo D’Oro in the Racing UK Profits Returned to Racing Handicap at Kempton on January 17.

The matter had been passed on to BHA headquarters as it was Fox’s fifth offence of misuse of the whip, this time warranting a suspension of four days, in the last six months.

The suspension will run from January 29 until February 24 on days that Flat racing is scheduled to take place.

In deciding on the length of suspension, the panel noted this was the second time in seven months that Fox had been referred to the disciplinary panel concerning his use of the whip.

He had also been in trouble with the authorities for his whip use when he was banned for three months at the end of 2012. Fox had enjoyed a successful 2015 with 36 winners and built up a good association with Best for whom he rode 29 of his horses to victory.

The Kent trainer believes Fox can put this latest setback behind him.

He said: “It’s such a long ban, but he knows the rules and the frustrating thing was he was only a week away from one of the bans dropping off, so he wouldn’t have had the totting-up had it happened a week later.

“He had a great year last year and we’ve got a lot of nice horses for this year. He can concentrate on getting these youngsters going and be ready to get going again at the end of February.


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