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Winnable World Hurdle should be Annie Power’s Cheltenham choice

| 02.01.2014

After trouncing Champion Hurdle-fourth Zarkandar for the second time in as many months at Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day meeting conjecture on her possible festival destination is rife, but the World Hurdle looks the sensible option for Annie Power.

As if to emphasise the uncertainty over whether the unbeaten six-year-old will take in the Champion Hurdle or the stayer’s blue riband she’s currently 8/1 in the betting for both races.

However a glance at her respective bedfellows in those markets should leave connections in no doubt as to her festival target.

Hurricane Fly, The New One and My Tent Or Yours are inseparable at 3/1 atop the Champion Hurdle betting, suggesting a fiercely competitive 2m championship is in the offing.

A two-time champion, a festival winner and a multiple all-age Group 1 victor lie in wait.

Meanwhile the precocious Triumph Hurdle king Our Conor sits alongside her at eights and even Zarkandar at 25/1 is entitled to give her a far better race off level weights.

Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old was beaten 8l in their handicap meeting at Cheltenham giving the Irish raider 7lbs on soft ground.

By contrast the World Hurdle is a race in which there are precious few proven operators beyond the two at the head of the market and even they look vulnerable.

5/2 favourite Big Buck’s is aiming to emulate a feat only achieved once in the race’s 40-year history by scoring at the ripe old age of 11 and must do so after a year off injured.

In fact only six winners, himself included, have taken the 3m test at an age as old as nine.

This will also count against 2013 king Solwhit, who won a somewhat falsely run World Hurdle which seemed to fall into his lap last term.

Among Annie Power’s other rivals at encouraging prices, 12/1 At Fishers Cross’ hurdling has gone to pieces outside novice company.

Elsewhere Boston Bob – another 8/1 shot – has already failed to see out two Cheltenham Festival races over 3m.

While there is no guarantee that the unbeaten daughter of Shirocco will stay 3m, the fact that she bounded up the famous hill to beat Zarkandar effortlessly over 2m4f on soft ground augurs well.

With her last three races taking place over trips of 2m3f and beyond it seems that her stable are keen to put it to the test.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Thomas Reynolds