Having been runner-up in the 2014 World Hurdle and fallen at the last with the Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy 12 months later, the popular nine-year-old brought the house down when breaking her Festival duck in becoming the first mare in 22 years to claim Champion Hurdle glory last March. She followed up in style at Aintree the following month, but has not been seen in action since.
Mullins revealed last week Annie Power was nearing a return, with a mares’ hurdle at Punchestown on 22 February pencilled in as a potential comeback target and springboard to Cheltenham. However, he revealed yesterday she would miss the showpiece.
“It’s disappointing. She worked well yesterday and we were very pleased with her,” said the champion trainer.
“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 out, her illustrious stable companion Faugheen is the hot favourite to regain the Champion Hurdle crown he claimed in 2015.
He missed out last March 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 worked yesterday and 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.
“He’s run on good ground in Cheltenham and run on good ground in Punchestown, so I don’t think that’s a problem, and there is some rain forecast before Sunday.”
Faugheen is set to be part of a formidable team of weekend runners for the Closutton maestro.
Un De Sceaux is on course to run in the rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday, while Vroum Vroum Mag, who already holds six entries at Cheltenham including the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup, is bound for the olbg.com Doncaster Mares’ Hurdle on the same afternoon.
Meanwhile, What Usain can snap a losing streak that stretches back to June 2015 by winning the sunbets.co.uk Handicap at Southwell.
A three-times winner for Geoff Oldroyd, What Usain subsequently moved to the care of David O’Meara but made no impression in five starts before moving on again to Michael Appleby’s yard.
What Usain showed a glimpse of promise on his debut for new connections in December and his second place earlier this month suggests he can get back on the winning trail.
Charismatic Man let down his supporters as a short-priced favourite last time out but should be given chance to redeem himself in the Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton.
The four-year-old is a full-brother to 2011 French Derby hero Reliable Man so one would perhaps have expected him to be a good deal better than this class four affair.