RETIRED North Yorkshire jockey Mark Dwyer believes Annie Power would have a “favourite’s chance” if given the green light to line up in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.
The Willie Mullins-trained mare is the new favourite for the two-mile hurdling crown following a successful comeback on Wednesday just hours after stablemate Faugheen, the reigning champion, was ruled out of Cheltenham with a season-ending injury.
Dwyer was in the saddle when Flakey Dove won the Champion Hurdle in 1994 and the Richard Price-trained winner, who died this month at the age of 30, remains the last mare to win the prestigious prize.
“You’d have to say she has as good a chance of winning a Champion Hurdle as any mare has for a good few years,” said Dwyer when asked to assess Annie Power’s credentials following her win at Punchestown. “If she goes there, I would think she’d have a favourite’s chance.”
Dwyer, who also rode Yorkshire jumping legends Forgive ‘n’ Forget and Jodami to Gold Cup glory for Jimmy Fitzgerald and Peter Beaumont respectively, reflected how he was fortunate to come in for the ride on Flakey Dove after her regular partner Norman Williamson was hit by suspension.
“She was a very good racemare and I was lucky to have a brief but very successful association with her,” he added. “Norman was suspended and I think I was second or third substitute.
“She had some good form going into Cheltenham. I remember she ran very well in the Tote Gold Trophy. When she went down to the start at Cheltenham it was like riding an old hack and I didn’t think I’d get much of a spin at all, but it was a different ball game when the race started.
“She battled very well up the hill. She wasn’t going to get beaten that day. Unfortunately she didn’t go on to breed much, but you often find that’s the case with the good racemares.”