BRIAN tOOMEY could not be more emphatic – Annie Power is Ireland’s best mare since the legendary Dawn Run became the first horse to complete the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup double.
The jockey, still recovering from life-threatening injuries sustained in a fall last July, will be The Yorkshire Post’s guest tipster this week and the Irish-born rider says the race of the Festival will be on Thursday when he expects Annie Power to defeat the legendary Big Buck’s.
North Yorkshire-based Toomey, 24, will be providing daily tips in the paper from tomorrow and says: “I think she could have won the Champion Hurdle if she’d been entered. She has that much ability that she’s a future Gold Cup winner – she’s the best since Dawn Run in 1986.
“She is absolutely top class and her jockey Ruby Walsh knows Big Buck’s so well. If anyone has an idea of how to get Big Buck’s ridden, it’s Ruby. Everyone was blaming Sam Twiston-Davies when Big Buck’s was beaten last time, and he’ll know the horse much better now, but I’d be surprised if Ruby and Annie Power didn’t have the measure of him.”
Toomey believes John Quinn’s JCB Triumph Hurdle contender Pearl Castle, a dual Doncaster winner, is Yorkshire’s most likely Festival winner.
But it will also be a poignant week – Toomey’s distant cousin JT McNamara was paralysed one year ago in the Fulke Walwyn Chase when he suffered a hideous first fence fall from Jonjo O’Neill’s Galaxy Rock.
McNamara’s first cousin Robbie is due to ride Dermot Weld’s progressive Vigil in Wednesday’s Champion Bumper and is desperate to win so he can salute the courage of his relative.
Brian Toomey is backing Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund Centre being built in Malton. Donations can be made via the injuredjockeys.co.uk website.