Rich Ricci agonises over Annie Power

Annie Power still appears likely to be added to the Stan James Champion Hurdle field at the supplementary stage on Wednesday as owner Rich Ricci agonises over potential scenarios.

Rich Ricci agonises over Annie Power

The mare has other Cheltenham options, but was promoted to favouritism for the Champion Hurdle when making a successful return to action at Punchestown last month, just minutes after reigning two-mile king and stablemate Faugheen was ruled out through injury.

Trained by Willie Mullins, Annie Power fell with the Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy 12 months ago, having the year before lost her unbeaten record in the World Hurdle.

Ricci said: “If the race was tomorrow, yes we would supplement her.

“The thing I struggle with is we’d love the mare to win at Cheltenham, so there’s two things I think about when you consider the Champion Hurdle.

“One is the health and well-being of Vroum Vroum Mag (potential substitute in the Mares’ Hurdle), who is absolutely fine.

“If she is right does she have a chance to win that race? We think yes.

“If that is the case then you’d be more inclined to take your chance with Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle, because she is a horse of immense talent and this would be the year, I accept all that.

“But then we talk and I say to myself ‘how would I feel if we get beat in the Champion Hurdle and Vroum Vroum Mag doesn’t win the Mares’ Hurdle and we’ve left one behind?’

“Maybe it is Annie Power’s last chance — that’s what we’re struggling with.

“I would have been happy to take on Hurricane Fly that year (when she ran in World Hurdle in 2014), but when you are in a yard like Willie’s who has attracted a tremendous amount of quality horses and owners, I never pushed it.

“They actually didn’t think she’d win the Champion Hurdle that year.

“I thought she had a great chance, but you have to take it that the yard knows best and you have to accept that’s the way it’s going to go.

“I think two and a half miles is her best trip, so the Aintree race (would be perfect race) and that was the race we probably should have run her in that year, not the World Hurdle.

“All that being said, I think you have to get two and a half to win the Champion Hurdle.

“If declarations were tomorrow I think we’d declare her, we’ve got until Wednesday and anything can happen between now and then. I haven’t talked to Willie, but that’s probably the direction we’ll travel.

“We haven’t had the conversation yet, we’ve talked generally about it but he’s got lots of things to get on with, we haven’t had a chance to catch up this week but I’m sure we’ll talk on Sunday.”

Meanwhile, Jonjo O’Neill has labelled More Of That his best chance of a winner at Cheltenham, with the RSA Chase looking favourite at this stage.

The 2014 World Hurdle winner took part in a racecourse school and gallop before racing began at Newbury yesterday.

Working with the AP McCoy-ridden stablemate Eastlake, who is preparing for another crack at the Grand Annual, Barry Geraghty rode More Of That.

The pair jumped off down the back straight jumping several fences, including the notoriously tricky cross fence, before coasting up the home straight, with More Of That finishing just in front.

Both are owned by JP McManus, who said: “They (O’Neill and Geraghty) seem to be pleased. I’d say the RSA is the most likely race, but you don’t know what the ground will be like.

“He’s in every race and he’s there for a reason.

“I’d say he’ll be better on better ground and on his day he’s a good horse.”

Geraghty said: “He jumped nicely and felt well, it was a nice piece of work. Ground will dictate where he goes, there’s no rush.

“He’s versatile and I’d be happy whatever race he is in.”

O’Neill said: “I’m happy, we just wanted to do this. He’s a better horse on better ground, we know that.

“He’s my best chance of the Festival, without a doubt. We are leaning towards the RSA, although he is also in the JLT and World Hurdle.

“We are looking at going that way. Nobody has told me anything has changed, but that is not for me to decide.

“We will see what’s what, but in every conversation we’ve had I imagine that is the way he is going.

“He is a lovely, sensible horse that is very straightforward and I am lucky to have him.

“If he turns up there the same way he did for the World Hurdle he will take some beating.”

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