Mullins team confident of Annie Power's chances

CONDITIONS should be 'near ideal' when Champion Hurdle hero Annie Power lines up in today's Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle.

Trainer Willie Mullins.

The lightly-raced mare is one of several Cheltenham winners lining up at the Merseyside track as Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins looks to overhaul Paul Nicholls in the race to be Britain’s top trainer.

However, the Mullins team do not expect the short lay-off, or additional four furlongs, to hinder Annie Power against the likes of Nicky Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours who was a gallant second at Cheltenham.

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“This race should be near ideal for Annie Power,” said the trainer’s son Patrick last night. “Like all those heading to the meeting she has come out of Cheltenham well. If she can run to her Cheltenham form, she will be very hard to beat.”

With Annie Power’s stablemate Douvan, a runaway winner of Cheltenham’s Arkle Trophy, swerving the Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase, Sizing John has a chance to shine under young jockey Jonathan Burke.

The Henry De Bromhead-trained chaser has been runner-up to Douvan on four occasions, including the Arkle. “I’m glad we don’t have to worry about Douvan this time,” said Burke who rides Goonyella in the Grand National.

“We’re going into new territory over the extra half a mile, but he gives you the impression he’ll stay. You never really know until you try, but if you could pick somewhere to give it a go Aintree would be the place. Hopefully we can get into a good rhythm and it would be great if he could win it. If it wasn’t for Douvan he’d be a great horse.”

Meanwhile, trainer Warren Greatrex and jockey Gavin Sheehan will be disappointed if La Bague Au Roi, unbeaten from three starts this season, does not land the concluding Mares’ Bumper. Victorious at the track earlier in the season under North Yorkshire’s Harry Bannister, this has been the horse’s sole target since winning at Huntingdon in early December.

Greatrex reports the five-year-old to be in rude health. He told The Yorkshire Post that his only concern would be very soft ground on Merseyside.