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Thursday 8 December 2016

Katie Walsh: Power will be fully on

Annie Power
Annie Power

The final day of the Punchestown Festival will be all about Annie Power and I fully expect her to bounce back from Aintree and return to winning ways.

It's been a fantastic week already for Willie Mullins and all his team and we've seen nothing so far this week to suggest that it is going to end any differently and I'd say a second win in this race in as many years will be just a formality for her.

I do hope that Punchestown get a bit of rain, however, as it will certainly need it. With the lovely sunshine yesterday and the wind as well the ground really did dry out during the day and it was probably a shade on the quick side for National Hunt horses so they took the wise decision to water last night.

Any rain that falls will certainly be a help for my old friend Thunder And Roses in the 3m6f Ladbrokes Ireland Handicap Chase.

As an Irish Grand National winner, he will obviously relish the trip and we know from Fairyhouse that he stays extremely well, so hopefully they get a nice drop of rain for him and he can run well for Sandra and the team. Sandra's horses have been knocking on the door all week and it would be nice to see her sign off the week on a high.

The Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle is a real wide-open looking affair and if I was a punter it's not a race I'd be having a fortune on. We've seen this week that it's very hard to look beyond Willie Mullins but I'm just going to side with Paul Nicholls and his Fred Winter winner this time.

Qualando has won his last two outings and Paul Nicholls, who hasn't been as busy as usual at Punchestown this week, will be hoping that the trip to Punchestown is worth it by going home with a Grade One under his belt.

Reflecting on yesterday, you'd have to say that Jezki was absolutely class in the World Hurdle. It was a proper run race and there could be little excuses and it was won by the better horse on the day.

The proven stayers were there and tried to make it a proper test but the two class horses in Jezki and Hurricane Fly still came to the fore to battle it out and left them behind and I was delighted for Mark Walsh.

Mark has enjoyed his finest season yet and that would have been his biggest winner yet. Being a local to Punchestown, it would have meant a huge amount to him.

Un De Sceaux did what people hoped and expected he would although judging by what Ruby was saying afterwards, he wouldn't be running again on ground that quick.

He was probably a bit more careful over his fences than he was at Cheltenham and didn't electrify the place like last month, but he still won and very snugly too at the death so there'll still be a lot to look forward to with him next season but judging on yesterday with more dig in the ground.

One point I would like to make is that I was disappointed to read in another publication that a certain so called racing expert was very critical of the Ladies Cup which was run as the first race on Tuesday.

This a banks race that is one of the oldest of the meeting and is confined for horses who only ran in point-to-points or Hunters Chases this season and for some owners this is a great opportunity to have a runner at the meeting and sometimes one with a chance.

The banks races are what Punchestown are all about and while some of them don't have the best of horses running in them, they certainly mean a lot to people who contest them, as we saw again yesterday with 14-year-old Uncle Junior.

PUNCHESTOWN TOMORROW

3.50 Annie Power

4.25 Qualando

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