Jockey Ruby Walsh believes there is a lot more to come from Annie Power, despite having extended her unbeaten run to eight races at Ascot on Saturday.
The exciting mare faced arguably her biggest test on a racecourse in the Coral Hurdle, in which she went head to head with Grade One winner Zarkandar.
Although Annie Power was in receipt of 11lb at the Berkshire circuit, there was still much to admire about the manner in which Willie Mullins’ inmate pulled five lengths clear.
Walsh said: “She was workmanlike. She stepped out of novice company for the first time to take on a high-calibre horse in Zarkandar.
“It was probably the first time she has been off the bridle and I was delighted the way she picked up.
“She’s a hard mare to get a handle on. We haven’t got to the bottom of her — she doesn’t lack pace and she doesn’t lack stamina.
“I’m sure she’ll have a run over Christmas or early in the new year, but all options are open to her.”
Meanwhile, Ballycasey could have a date at Limerick over Christmas following his accomplished debut success over fences at Navan on Sunday.
The highly-regarded six-year-old stayed on powerfully under Ruby Walsh to take a strong beginners’ chase over two miles and a furlong by eight lengths.
Next up could be the Grade Two Greenmount Park Novice Chase on December 26.
Walsh said: “He jumped super. He’s a lovely, big horse and that was the first time we ran him over two miles.
“It was a really good race – there was no place to hide – but Ballycasey jumped super and won impressively.
“He has always been in Champagne Fever’s shadow, but we’ve always liked him.
“Two (miles) three (furlongs) at Limerick over Christmas would suit him.”
Elsewhere, the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown is the likely next port of call for Irving after he made it two from two over hurdles at Ascot on Friday.
Paul Nicholls’ French recruit looked the part on his British bow at Taunton a couple of weeks ago and further enhanced his reputation with a smart display in Berkshire.
Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Axom, is looking forward to seeing the five-year-old test his powers at Grade One level in the Tolworth on January 4.
Downie said: ““He jumped better than he did at Taunton, he’s improving and Nick (Scholfield, jockey) was very pleased with him.
“I think he will probably go for the Tolworth Hurdle now. ”
Meanwhile, owner Andy Stewart has been told Big Buck’s could be better than ever ahead of his return from injury later this season.
Paul Nicholls’ four-times World Hurdle winner bolted up in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury almost a year ago, but missed the rest of the campaign.
The 10-year-old is likely to make his eagerly-awaited comeback in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January before aiming to win back his World Hurdle crown at the Festival in March.
“He’s ever so well. Clifford Baker (Nicholls’ head lad) thinks he could not only be as good as he was this time last year, but perhaps even better,” Stewart told At The Races.
Trainer Harry Fry has ruled out the prospect of Rock On Ruby running in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Rock On Ruby was comprehensively outgunned by The New One on his seasonal bow at Kempton in October, with his Dorset-based handler yet to commit to a long-range gameplan.
Fry said: “There are no firm plans for Rock On Ruby and I’m disappointed that he got so heavily beaten last time.
“He is ground dependent but back in full work and he has options before and after Christmas.”
* Barry Geraghty will partner At Fishers Cross when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
The Rebecca Curtis-trained six-year-old was a brilliant winner of Grade One prizes at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring, but his comeback was delayed after he missed an intended run at Wetherby at the start of the month with a cut leg.
At Fishers Cross is now ready for his return, but he will have a new jockey as regular partner Tony McCoy instead heads to Newcastle to ride My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
At Fishers Cross and My Tent Or Yours carry the colours of leading owner JP McManus, whose racing manager, Frank Berry, said: “Barry will ride At Fishers Cross as AP (McCoy) is going to Newcastle.
“As far as I know, both horses are in good form.”
Curtis said: “He’s definitely running on Saturday, all being well, and he’s in really good form.
“We’re looking forward to getting him started again.”
The Long Distance Hurdle has been reopened until Tuesday.
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