Injured Annie Power out of Festival

WILLIE Mullins will not rush into making any decisions on Champion Hurdle heroine Annie Power's long-term future after confirmation that his mare in a million would miss this season's Cheltenham Festival through injury.

Annie Power ridden by Jockey Ruby Walsh on the way to winning the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle during the Grand Opening Day of the Crabbie's Grand National Festival.

Having finished runner-up in the 2014 World Hurdle and then fallen at the final flight 12 months later with the Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy, the popular nine-year-old brought the house down when breaking her Festival duck last March when becoming the first mare in 22 years to claim hurdling’s premier prize last March.

She followed up in style at Aintree the following month, but has not been seen in competitive action since.

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A fragile horse, Annie Power has raced just seven times since winning the Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster in January 2014 under Ruby Walsh.

Mullins revealed last week Annie Power was nearing a return to action, with a mares’ hurdle at Punchestown on February 22 pencilled in as a potential comeback target and springboard to Cheltenham.

However, he revealed yesterday morning she would miss the showpiece meeting.

“It’s disappointing. She worked well yesterday and we were very pleased with her,” said Mullins whose highly-regarded Vroum Vroum Mag is entered in this Saturday’s mares’ race at Doncaster that was previously won by Annie Power.

“I was away all day yesterday working horses on the Curragh and they told me yesterday evening they weren’t happy with her.

“We just confirmed that this morning – that she has an injury on the other leg, the good leg for want of a better word.

“She’s definitely out of Cheltenham and whether she runs again this season, I don’t know. We’d have to see the extent of it, but I’d probably say not.

“Normally when a horse gets an injury like that we give them a week or 10 days and then reassess and I think that’s what we’ll do.

“She’s going to be a huge loss to us this season.”

With Annie Power ruled out, her illustrious stable companion Faugheen is the hot favourite to regain the Champion Hurdle crown he claimed in 2015.

Not seen on the racetrack since January last year, he was unable to defend his Cheltenham crown after suffering injury following his victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The nine-year-old has been sidelined since, but is on course to make his comeback in the same race this weekend.

Mullins said: “Faugheen will run on Sunday. We’re happy with him, and I’m hoping for a big run. He has the rating for the race, but is going to meet race-fit horses.”

Sue Smith’s fine form continued when the Ann Ellis-owned Cracking Find took Catterick’s novice hurdle under Danny Cook.

On a cold, crisp day, there was further white rose success at the North Yorkshire track when the Micky Hammond-trained and Joe Colliver-ridden Major Ridge landed the handicap chase – the winner denying the soon-to-retire Keith Reveley’s Suzy’s Music.

Nietzsche then took the 
handicap hurdle for trainer Brian Ellison and jockey Megan Carberry.

Frost covers have been deployed at Doncaster ahead of the two-day Sky Bet Chase meeting which begins tomorrow.