Annie Power: Ruby Walsh will ride the unbeaten mare in World HurdlePICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Annie Power to take on Buck's in World Hurdle
IT WAS confirmed on Sunday night that Annie Power will take on four-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle champion Big Buck's at Cheltenham in 11 days' time, when she will be ridden by Ruby Walsh, who rode Big Buck's to all of his festival victories.
Annie Power also had the options of running in the Stan James Champion Hurdle or the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, but trainer Willie Mullins said on Sunday connections had decided to bid for the staying hurdlers' crown.
Speaking after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday, Mullins said: "All things remaining well with the horses, this is where things stand. Ruby will ride Annie Power in the World Hurdle. I've spoken with the owners and they are happy with that plan.
"Ruby will be on Hurricane Fly in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and Quevega in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle."
The majority of bookmakers reacted by cutting her price into joint-favouritism with Big Buck’s at 2-1, although Coral maker Annie Power outright favourite for the World Hurdle at 15-8 (from 9-4), having eased Big Buck’s to 9-4 (from 15-8).
"Although Annie Power will be tackling three miles for the first time next week, she won impressively at Cheltenham over an extended two and a half in soft ground on New Year's Day, and we favour her to extend her unbeaten record under Ruby Walsh in what could be one of the races of the week as they take on the jockey's old ally Big Buck's," said Coral's David Stevens.
The RSA Chase remains the target for Ballycasey despite a schooling fall after racing at Leopardstown. Betfred eased the seven-year-old to 11-2 (from 9-2) at the head of their RSA market following the mishap, although most firms remain at 4-1 or 9-2.
Ballycasey appeared none the worse for the fall and was soon reunited with Walsh, who popped him over an additional fence.
Willie Mullins: schooled a large team after racing on SundayPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Mullins said: "Ballycasey seems fine. I'd put the fall down to a bit of inexperience and the RSA remains the plan."
The fall mirrored that of the Mullins-trained Rule Supreme, who failed to complete in a Leopardstown schooling session before going on to land the 2004 RSA Chase under David Casey
Ballycasey schooled with stablemates Djakadam and Boston Bob, both of whom pleased their trainer although decisions about their Cheltenham participation are on hold until later this week.
Mullins said: "I was very happy with Boston Bob. He needed that after being held up a bit at home and we'll work him a couple of times during the week before deciding if he will travel."
Boston Bob is entered for the Gold Cup (25-1), Ryanair Chase (33-1) and World Hurdle (20-1).
Of Djakadam, Mullins said: "He schooled very well but we'll wait a few more days before making a decision. He's in the Arkle, the JLT and the RSA but he just might lack a bit of experience. He's only five and is a horse with a big future."
In a separate schooling session, Champagne Fever - 3-1 favourite for the Racing Post Arkle - jumped well in front under Walsh and led home three stablemates including Felix Yonger.
"He jumped from fence to fence. Ruby said he was absolutely brilliant," said Mullins.