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2015 OLBG Mares' Hurdle tips - Annie Power to have too much Power for rivals

Annie Power can make her class tell in Tuesday's OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
Annie Power (left) can make her class tell in Tuesday's final Grade One race, the OLBG Mares' Hurdle.

Tipster Brian Healy assesses the chances of Annie Power in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle, and looks at the possible challengers for the now-vacant crown.


The final Grade One of the first day of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival is the OLBG Mare’s Hurdle, which for the last six years has been a Willie Mullins benefit race, thanks to the exploits of record-breaking mare, Quevega.

Now retired, Quevega’s mantle will pass to a new champion, and Willie Mullins again boasts a powerful hand with last year’s World Hurdle runner-up in Annie Power, and Glens Melody who was runner-up in this race twelve months ago both featuring in the line up.

The race, which is due to go off at 4.00pm, has attracted a field of 16 runners for the 2m 4f contest.

ANNIE POWER (4/7, Ladbrokes) can’t be opposed in this race, even allowing for the fact she is making her first appearance since wining at Punchestown last April.

The Shirocco mare found only More Of That too strong when losing her unbeaten record in last season’s World Hurdle, and she was injured in her preparation for the Hattons Grace last autumn, which has since kept her off the track.

Lack of a run didn’t stop Quevega racking up six straight successes in this race, and while Annie Power comes here without a prior run, she is sure to have been put through her paces by the County Carlow trainer.


Annie Power looks tough to oppose in Tuesday's OLBG Mares' Hurdle.

Her form is a cut above that of her rivals,  having contested and won in Grade One company last term, and she has 8lbs in hand of her nearest rival, Polly Peachum. 

If she’s anywhere near her peak, she’ll prove almost impossible to beat here, and like her former stablemate she could run up a sequence in this race.

(New customers can get 7/1 on Annie Power winning the Mares’ Hurdle with Skybet. Max stake £5, repaid in free bets.)


Glens Melody was runner-up to Quevega in this race twelve months ago.

If there are dangers to Annie Power’s dominance in the race, it is likely to come from stablemate Glens Melody (9/2, Bet365) who was a narrow runner-up in this race twelve months ago behind Quevega, and has ran some solid races in defeat since.

Fifth in the Christmas Hurdle on her comeback run at Leopardstown, she was beaten eight lengths by Lieutenant Colonel, and built on the outing to chase home the progressive Kitten Rock at Naas next time in the Grade Three Limestone Lad Hurdle.

Sent to Warwick in February, the King’s Theatre mare was a facile winner from Emily Gray, beating that rival by seven lengths as she justified short odds, and she can go well again in this race although no reason she can beat Annie Power given she’s already finished well beaten behind her stablemate in the past.

Polly Peachum (10/1, Bet365) is rated 8lbs inferior to Annie Power, but is a smart individual who has won three of her last five starts, including at this venue.

Nicky Henderson’s charge was a faller last time at Kempton behind Carole’s Spirt, but she looked beaten at the time and will need to improve considerably on what she’s shown thus far if she’s to lower the colours of Willie Mullins’ star mare.


Carole's Spirit looks to hold solid each-way claims in Tuesday's final Grade One contest.

Carole’s Spirit (20/1, Paddy Power, each-way) meanwhile should acquit herself well, and she’s been placed in all starts over hurdles to date, wining all bar two of those outings.

A winner of Listed events at Haydock and Kempton, Robert Walford’s charge hasn’t been disgraced in Grade Two company, chasing home Highland Retreat at Ascot over three miles, and then going down by just half-a-length behind Bitofapuzzle in the corresponding race at the same venue on her last outing.

Off level weights now against that rival, she can reverse places with Harry Fry’s progressive mare who was in receipt of 5lbs when running out a narrow victor. First-time blinkers might help focus her and bring out sufficient improvement to give her solid place claims.

Bitofapuzzle (25/1, Coral) has been hugely progressive this term, and has only once tasted defeat when touched off by a neck behind The Pirate’s Queen at Haydock back in December.

The Tamure mare perhaps did too much too soon in the heavy ground that day, and bounced back with a game success next time over Carole’s Spirit at Ascot when upped to three miles. She’s effectively 5lbs worse off with Robert Walford’s runner now for a half-length win, and might struggle to confirm the form.

As progressive as she is though, the drop back to this trip doesn’t look an obvious move for Harry Fry’s charge, and with the prospect of better ground she might just find things happening to quickly for her over this trip, although she’ll relish coming up the hill. 


The progressive Bitofapuzzle can go well, but might struggle on revised terms to confirm earlier form with Carole's Spirit.

Alan King saddles two in the race, with the main stable challenger looking to be L’Unique (16/1, Coral), who was third to Carole’s Spirit at Kempton last time, and had earlier unseated behind Shelford at Chepstow when still travelling well in Grade Three company.

Third in the corresponding event twelve months ago, the Reefscape mare has some solid form here, also finishing runner-up behind Polly Peachum in a Listed event over further, and she can make another bold bid without quite being good enough.

The Pirate’s Queen (22/1, William Hill) arrives on a hat-trick after wins over Balmusette at Doncaster, and then Bitofapuzzle at Haydock, and should also be competitive although she’ll have to raise her game considerably. 

Emily Gray (50/1, Bet365) has placed consistently in her last six outings, filling the runner-up berth in five of them. Kim Bailey’s charge is fitted with first-time cheek-pieces now in the hope they bring out more improvement; they’ll have to though, and she’s likely to be playing for places.

The rest of the field look up against it in this company and would need a few of the principals to under-perform to boost their chances of getting involved.

VERDICT

It looks to be a question of how far for ANNIE POWER (4/7, Ladbrokes) if she’s anywhere near her best, and Willie Mullins’ Grade One winner should have too many guns for these rivals if she arrives here fit enough to do herself justice after almost a year off the track.

The form of the Shirocco mare last season is far and away superior to anything her rivals can muster up, and she is impossible to oppose in her quest to take over the mantle vacated by six-time winner Quevega.

The best of the rest look to be stablemate Glens Melody, who finished runner-up in this twelve months ago and arrives buoyed by a recent Warwick win; Polly Peachum meanwhile has to bounce back from a fall at Kempton last time, and it may be Carole’s Spirit who can complete the places and reward each-way support.

MARES’ HURDLE SELECTIONS – ANNIE POWER (4/7, Ladbrokes); Carole’s Spirit (20/1, Paddy Power, each-way)

(New customers can get 7/1 on Annie Power winning the Mares’ Hurdle with Skybet. Max stake £5, repaid in free bets.)


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2015 OLBG Mares' Hurdle tips - Annie Power to have too much Power for rivals

The final Grade One contest of the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, and Willie Mullins will seek to cement his stranglehold in the race with Annie Power who could be a ready-made replacement for six-time winner Quevega.

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