Sunday 17 December 2017

Katie Walsh: Annie Power is my pock of a superb first festival diary

This is Cheltenham No 19 for me - and the feeling of excitement is still the same

Annie Power
Annie Power

This will be my 19th time at the Cheltenham Festival and even still after that many years the excitement in the build up doesn't change one bit.

It's obviously a tad more exciting with Dad having a runner and Ross having his first runner over here and at this stage I just can't wait for it all to start.

I suppose all the talk looking ahead to tomorrow revolves around the Champion Hurdle and all of the short-priced favourites trained by Willie Mullins. I'm going to begin with the last of those short-priced favourites, Annie Power.

In my opinion, Annie Power is the best bet of the opening day. From day one, I have always absolutely loved her and she is just such a high class racehorse.

Obviously, she hasn't had a run this season and that is never ideal going to Cheltenham but you would want to have a fairly short memory to question Willie Mullins' ability to get a mare to Cheltenham to win on her first run of the season!

If things had been slightly different, Annie Power may have been coming here unbeaten, having only suffered defeat once in her life when going down to More Of That in the World Hurdle.

But that defeat is only a blot on her copybook and I'm looking forward to watching her return to winning ways tomorrow afternoon.

Obviously, Ruby has a lot of decisions to make this week and there's no doubt the biggest of them was choosing between Hurricane Fly and Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle.

But in all honesty when everything is summed up, it was probably no surprise the way he went.

Hurricane Fly has been a magnificent horse for everyone associated with him and nobody more so than Ruby and what he has achieved this season has been an absolute credit to both the horse and to Willie.

But at this stage of his career, he is probably a better horse with an ease in the ground, like he had at Punchestown and Leopardstown when beating Jezki on his last three runs.

Cheltenham is being forced to be watered and the forecast is for high temperatures, so he was never going to get that.

Faugheen is the up and coming horse of the entire field. I have made no secret of the fact that I have always thought since Christmas that his price is absolutely ridiculous for what he has achieved but I suppose Faugheen doesn't know what price he is and he just has to go and do his job.

When winning the Neptune at this meeting last year, he was absolutely electric and blew the field away.

That has proved to be a good trial for the Champion Hurdle over the years and hopefully that will prove the case again this time around.

In the opening race a lot of hopes will rest on Douvan and how can anyone argue with Willie Mullins when he says that he could be one of the best horses he has ever brought to this meeting?

Willie wouldn't be saying that without firmly believing it and of all the novice form I have seen this year, I can't pick one out that looks a danger to Douvan.

Ruby is in an extremely fortunate position to have such a good book of rides and obviously one of the picks of them is Un De Sceaux in the Arkle.

I heard Ruby compare him the other day to Azertyuiop who won a Champion Chase in 2004 when Moscow Flyer was around and you'd have to think that the only horse capable of beating Un De Sceaux tomorrow afternoon is Un De Sceaux.


It will be interesting to see how he handles Cheltenham and all that goes with it because he wasn't here last year but he has travelled to France and won there and it shouldn't be a problem for him.

His jumping the last day at Leopardstown was absolutely savage. He danced on the take off board of a couple of the fences and it was a joy to watch.

When you're riding a horse like that it's a great feeling, and with a clear round of jumping tomorrow afternoon, I don't think he'll be caught.

Obviously, the four-mile National Hunt Chase is a race that means a lot to me as it was in this I rode my first Cheltenham winner on Poker De Sivola and tomorrow I ride a horse called Broadway Buffalo for David Pipe.

He's a horse with plenty of experience, which is what you need for a race like this, and I'm looking forward to riding him.

I suppose Cause Of Causes is the horse to beat. He actually has a similar profile to Poker De Sivola because he ran in the race last year and he is the classy horse in the race, having been second in a Galway Hurdle and a Paddy Power and also second in this race last year.

If he stays I think he'll take all the beating. He's a horse I tipped up for the English National a couple of weeks ago and I'd say that is still the plan.

I head off on the early boat this morning with Foxrock, while Ross went over a lunchtime yesterday with Dai Bando.

It was nice to see Rossvoss win the beginners chase at Naas yesterday and it's nice to be going off to Cheltenham knowing that the horses are in good form.

That wasn't the classiest of races yesterday but he did it well all the same and the horses are in good shape, which is the main thing. It just sends you off on a good note.

Katie's Choice
1.30 Douvan 2.10 Un de Sceaux 3.20 Faugheen 4.0 Annie Power 4.40 Cause of Causes

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