The arrival of the summer ensures that the stars of the National Hunt season are now on their holidays but already attention is turning towards next winter among jumps racing fans. Over the course of the past few months, we have seen a number of new star names emerge with perhaps none bigger than that of Annie Power. The mare burst onto the scene for trainer Willie Mullins this past season with the vibes from those who know her best suggesting that this could be a very special mare indeed.
Annie Power arrived at the Cheltenham Festival in March unbeaten and well backed for the World Hurdle against the boys. She lost very little in defeat that day as she chased More Of That home to finish second in the race having run a little free for much of the early stages. She slammed her rivals last time out in the Mares race at Punchestown and the burning question on the minds of most racing fans now is which race will Annie Power be aimed towards at Cheltenham next year?
So far, Annie Power has been seen being put to great use over anywhere between two miles and three miles with some suggesting she has the speed to win a Champion Hurdle and others speculating shecould even be destined for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. At the moment, Annie Power is towards the head of no less than five ante-post Cheltenham Festival markets! Here's a look at where she could end up next March.
World Hurdle - Annie Power @ 10/1 with Bet Victor
Ok, let's start with the race that Annie Power finished second in back in March and that is of course the World Hurdle. She ran an excellent race that day but maybe just found one too good in More Of That who it should be noted, could also be a very special horse himself given that he remains unbeaten. That was her first try over the three mile trip and it was also the first time she tasted defeat during her career. Do we link the two together? Maybe, but when you watch the race again she did take a pull early on in the hands of Ruby Walsh and it is difficult to suggest that a horse didn't stay when they have just finished second in a World Hurdle at Prestbury Park.
The World Hurdle could well become the attractive option once again in 2015, especially if connections of More Of That decide to send their horse chasing. That would open the door for a new winner in 2015 which could well be Annie Power but Willie Mullins does also have the possibility of aiming his hot novice, Briar Hill, at the 2015 World Hurdle, while there is also talk of Hurricane Fly stepping up in trip for the yard, both of which would likely see Annie Power re-routed.
Champion Hurdle - Annie Power @ 10/1 with Bet365
If Annie Power is kept over hurdles, which is far from certain, then what is the chance she will be back down in trip for a tilt at the Champion Hurdle? There were plenty of racing experts who believed that she would have won the Champion Hurdle last season but with Hurricane Fly the star of the County Carlow stable, a clash between the pair was never likely. As it was, Hurricane Fly was beaten on the day and with his best days surely behind him, maybe Annie Power can be the new Champion Hurdle horse for the Irish Champion Trainer?
She has won over two miles on several occasions during her career and clearly has a high cruising speed which would lend itself to a tilt at the first day feature at Cheltenaham. Punters hoping that Annie Power will go for the Champion Hurdle could be disappointed though with her owner, Rich Ricci, and Mullins potentially having an embarrassment of riches in that division. Faugheen and Vautour are the two that come to mind as hot novices last season and if one of those two is aimed at the Champion Hurdle as expected, that could seen Annie Power's future lie elsewhere.
David Nicholson Mares Hurdle - Annie Power @ 7/4 with skybet
The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle race is the least 'sexy' option for Annie Power but it is worth a mention given recent events. Willie Mullins has won this race at Cheltenham for the last six years with Quevega but with her now retired, it could be that Mullins looks for a ready made replacement. It would surely be no more than a penalty kick for Annie Power if she ran in the Mares Hurdle but given the hype surrounding her, she will surely be aimed at more prestigious targets.
Arkle Chase - Annie Power @ 12/1 with Bet Victor
There is every chance that Annie Power will switch to a career over fences in time for the start of next season and that would bring in the possibility of a tilt at the Arkle Chase over two miles. As we have already mentioned, Annie Power has shown plenty of speed over two miles as a hurdler and there is no reason why she wouldn't be able to translate that to the fences over the same distance.
Once again though, there is the little matter of two horses by the name of Vautour and Faugheen who belong to the same owner and trainer. At the moment, the feeling is that one of those two will stay hurdling and the other will go chasing which could see that horse come into consideration for the Arkle and at the same time and see Annie Power targeted elsewhere.
RSA Chase - Annie Power @ 10/1 with Bet365
Last of all we come to the RSA Chase and like the other four markets that Annie Power currently appears in, this is a genuine possibility for the mare given her class and experience. She showed good stamina when second in the World Hurdle and if the Gold Cup is the ultimate aim for the horse, then surely the RSA Chase is the correct path for her as a novice chaser. It should be noted that Mullins also has Don Poli and Pont Alexandre currently in the RSA Chase betting but neither have the reputation that Annie Power does, with some believing that she can be the first mare since Dawn Run to win the Gold Cup.
At the moment, there is no betting for the JLT Novices Chase down at 2m4f but that could also be an option for Annie Power if connections decide to avoid the extended trip in 2015. The RSA is perhaps more likely though given the talk of a potential Gold Cup run in the future, with Lord Windermere and Denman just two recent horses who won both of those races during their career's.
As things stand, the future of Annie Power is far from certain as the array of options highlighted in the above markets confirms. The six-year-old is clearly a class act and with just one defeat on her record to a very good horse, the future looks bright whichever route she takes. Punters looking for clues will also need to take into account Faugheen and Vautour who have the same owner and trainer and where they go next winter will surely have a major impact on Annie Power.
Faugheen might be a Champion Hurdle horse on his recent Punchestown win which would likely see Vautour go chasing with the Arkle his probably target as a Supreme Novices Hurdle winner. That would surely mean that Annie Power would either stay over hurdles and bid to win the World Hurdle once again or more likely, she could go chasing with the JLT or the RSA Chase the favourites to this mind at least. One thing for sure at this stage is that owner Rich Ricci will be desperate to keep his three star horses apart next winter with all three potential superstars for the American billionaire and whatever route is decided for Annie Power, expect her to be primed for yet more victories.