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All eyes on Annie Power at Doncaster on Saturday

Updated: Friday, 24 Jan 2014 16:31 | Comments

Annie Power will hope to make it 10 unbeaten in the OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle
Annie Power will hope to make it 10 unbeaten in the OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle

All eyes will be on Annie Power as Willie Mullins' budding superstar bids to stretch her unbeaten record to 10 in the OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday.

The six-year-old is likely to be a major player in the champion Irish trainer's team for the Cheltenham Festival, and already holds entries in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle as well as being a possible deputy for Quevega in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle there.

Bearing all possible future plans in mind, the Carlow handler has decided to send Rich Ricci's exciting prospect to Town Moor for the Grade Two contest over an extended two miles.

Mullins explained the reasons behind sending her to South Yorkshire.

"We had three real options where we could run her. We could have run her against Hurricane Fly and Jezki (Irish Champion Hurdle), we could have gone to England for a Champion Hurdle trial or a mares' race in Doncaster worth £20,000 to the winner, so it was a fairly easy decision," he said.

"We don't think the trip will be an issue, but it wasn't a question of finding a race over two miles. If the race was two and a half miles she would have run. It just looked the right opportunity.

"She's beaten some good horses over two miles over hurdles and I don't see that or the better ground being a problem.

"This will be her third successive trip to England. The travelling can take it out of some horses and she wasn't the easiest on herself as a young horse, but she seems to be taking it well

"It is good experience for her and hopefully it won't take the steam out of her for Cheltenham.

"Cockney Sparrow ran a good race in the Fighting Fifth, it is a home game for her and John Quinn's horses are in good form, so it is not going to be a gimme."

Cockney Sparrow was only three lengths behind leading Champion Hurdle contender My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in late November.

The plan was always to come back in this race and trainer John Quinn reports the five-year-old ready for her return to the track.

"She's in very good form. We're very happy with her and we'll see," said Quinn.

"It's a very tough race, but our mare's in good form."

Alasi, winner of this race in 2012, is set to retire to the paddocks for a mating with Shirocco in the not too distant future.

Paul Webber's admirable stable stalwart may have one more race after this before her date at stud.

"We all adore her and she's been such a fabulous mare, but she's 10 now and she should be going off to stud soon," said the Banbury trainer.

"This looked the obvious race for her and there might be another one in mid-February. We'll have to see. Obviously, she's taking on a monster (Annie Power), but we'll see how close we can get.

"There wasn't an Annie Power in it when she won it, but we'll give it a go and see what happens."

Donald McCain has primed Doyly Carte for this race and has not been put off by the presence of Annie Power.

"We've been waiting to run and have been aiming her at this race for a while. Obviously the good mare is coming from Ireland, so we'll see, but she's ready to go," said the Cheshire trainer.

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