Willie Mullins: ‘It was a huge performance after the preparation she had’

Willie Mullins emulated his father by training a mare to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle as Annie Power blew her rivals away in style at Cheltenham, setting a new course record in the process.

Willie Mullins: ‘It was a huge performance after the preparation she had’

Dawn Run, trained by Paddy Mullins, won the race back in 1984 and famously went on the win the Gold Cup two years later.

That feat means Dawn Run is rightly regarded as the best National Hunt mare of all time — but Annie Power is quickly approaching that sort of status herself, although the salient point of the race was that she was only rerouted to the championship event after her stablemate, last year’s winner Faugheen, was ruled out through injury.

Throw in the fact that the last time she took on the boys, in the World Hurdle two years ago, she was defeated by More Of That and her season had been interrupted by setbacks, there were some doubters.

Because of all that there were plenty willing to take her on, despite being in receipt of a 7lbs mares’ allowance in what was widely regarded as a sub-standard renewal, but she was still sent off the 5-2 favourite.

A costly faller at the last when looking certain to win the Mares’ Hurdle 12 months ago, there were plenty who felt she was owed success this time after owner Rich Ricci stumped up £20,000 (€25,500 to supplement her for her new target.

Only three mares in the history of the two-mile championship had won it, the last being Flakey Dove in 1994, and since the introduction of the mares’ race, less and less will now surely try.

Just for good measure, though, Mullins and Ricci also had that covered this year in the shape of Vroum Vroum Mag later on the card.

Ruby Walsh was determined to make it a strong test and after The New One led to the first hurdle where he jumped right, Annie Power took over and was never headed.

My Tent Or Yours put in a strong bid in his first race for 703 days, running gallantly to take the runner-up spot, four and a half lengths behind the winner.

Nichols Canyon was a head back in third to give Mullins a one-three.

Mullins said: “I don’t know how good she is, but she’s a hell of a horse.

“I thought she could win, but I didn’t think she could do it like that, coming off that preparation (just one race since last May).

“I think Ruby’s been watching videos of Dawn Run over the last 48 hours. That (make the running) is what he wanted to do and it’s all worked out.

“It was a huge performance after the preparation she had.

“Two out, I saw My Tent Or Yours was still up there, but after two years off I didn’t think he’d be able to keep going.”

When asked if Annie Power was the best mare he had trained, Mullins said: “She’ll have a higher rating than Quevega (six-times Mares’ Hurdle winner) after that, but the memories Quevega gave us were something special.”

Nicky Henderson was understandably thrilled with My Tent Or Yours, who fared best of his five runners.

He said: “He ran really well, we always knew at some stage he’d get tired. He still showed he is ever so slick over his hurdles, as he jumped well and he looked very relaxed and settled.

“We’ve got to do something and we might go to Punchestown.

“Top Notch (fifth) ran a great race, while Hargam was off the bridle a long way out but Sign Of A Victory (eighth) ran a good race. Peace And Co was disappointing.”

The New One was fourth and his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “I was very disappointed, it does appear he has lost a tiny bit of his speed, but there no excuses.

“He will be going further now and we’ll go to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile race and we’ll come back to two miles during next season.

“Then we’ll come here for the three-mile World Hurdle next year.”

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