The news breaking from Closutton this morning will not have come as a surprise to many, the chestnut wonder mare, Annie Power has run her last race. “I discussed things with her owners over the weekend and we decided we were happy to let her retire” said Mullins this morning, “She was a very special race mare and gave us many memorable days. Her Champion Hurdle win last year was definitely one of the highlights of my career as a trainer.” The 2016 Champion Hurdler has been covered by Camelot, a foal who will be brought into the world in the Spring of 2018 with the eyes of the world watching. The offspring sired by a Derby winner and one of the most adaptable jumps mares in recent memory, winner of 15 of her 17 career starts.
Many will know her only as a Willie Mullins mare, carrying the now famous pink silks of Susannah Ricci to a string of victories but she began her career at Galway in the summer of 2012, owned and bred by Eamon Cleary, she was in the safe hands of Coolcullen maestro Jim Bolger. Sent off odds on favourite, she dug in grittily when a gap opened on the inside as they climbed the hill to the line. Turned out quickly, less that three weeks later, she would shrug off a penalty in a Wexford bumper under the guidance of Patrick Mullins.
Mullins would again be in the saddle when making her debut for Willie at the Listowel Festival. Just a single rival was to take her on, despatched with distain, she romped clear by more than 60 lengths to close out her bumper career a perfect 3/3. She would race a further four times that season, claiming a Grade 2 at Naas beating a certain Don Cossack almost twelve lengths before slamming Glen’s Melody in the Grade 1 EBF Mares Final at Fairyhouse in March. She had done everything asked of her as a novice and with a reputation blossoming as a superstar, she would be sent out to grass for the summer before loftier targets in the Autumn of 2013.
In 2013, Zarkandar would run a game 4th to Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle before landing his third Grade 1 victory, edging out The New One in a pulsating finish in the Aintree Hurdle. Such was the reputation that Annie Power came with, she was sent off 8/13 favourite when the pair met at Ascot in the November of 2013. She had to dig deep on the run-in but eventually the eleven pounds she was receiving from the Paul Nicholls trained gelding told and she ran out a five length winner despite a number of sloppy jumps.
She would extend that beating to 8 lengths over Zarkandar as 2014 dawned, skipping away up the Cheltenham hill to win with more in hand than the official margin told before not having to break sweat to land the Grade 2 Doncaster Mares Hurdle at the end of January. Having won so comfortably over two miles there as well as two and a half previously, the biggest debate going into the Cheltenham Festival of 2014 was, what would her target be? Some argued the Champion Hurdle was the natural direction, she had after all beaten the previous year’s 4th with consummate ease, others adamant that a further step up in trip for the World Hurdle would see her in an even better light.
The latter was chosen as the target and on the 13th of March 2014, Annie Power made her first trip to the Cheltenham Festival, sent off the 11/8 favourite to turn over the four time winner of the World Hurdle, Big Bucks, as well as the other young pretender to the throne, the Jonjo O’Neil trained More Of That. Reve De Sivola would set out to make the running, his usual zest for pacemaking ensuring that there would be no hiding place. Annie, buzzed up by the occasion was smuggled round at the back as best she could be by Ruby Walsh but she was fairly tanking along.
Heading down the hill for the final time it was clear that there would be no fairytale fifth win for Big Bucks, Walsh having to switch wide to avoid that horse falling back into his lap as they took the second last. Walsh and Barry Geraghty on More Of That touched down together at the last, both down behind the ears of their charges, stretching every sinew to push them up the famous hill. She tasted her first defeat that day but the way they both came clear of At Fishers Cross in third put pay to any idea that she didn’t stay, she simply didn’t stay as strongly as More Of That. She would close out her season at prohibitive odds of 1/6 at the Punchestown Festival but she would not be seen again until the Cheltenham Festival of 2015.
A stress reaction injury had seen her withdrawn late from her intended return in the Hatton’s Grace so it was straight to the Festival without a prep for the Mullins star. Things could not have gone better for the yard that afternoon, Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen had turned the Tuesday into a Mullins benefit gig and with their fourth big gun still to play, bookmakers were fearing the worst. We will never know exactly what happened at the last flight for all the Social Media conspiracy theorists. On the replay, she looks to take off a stride too early, jumping a shadow before landing on the hurdle and crumpling. Two trips to the Festival, two agonising defeats for connections,
An injury again prevented her being seen before February of the following season, a return at 1/20 at Punchestown telling the public nothing more than she still had a leg in each corner. She headed to the Festival once more in a bid to make it third time lucky, this time the route took her to the Champion Hurdle in the absence of defending champion Faugheen. The response was exceptional! She jumped into the lead at the first flight of hurdles and ran them into the ground in a course record time. The electricity cracked round Prestbury Park, we had witnessed one of the most brutal dismantling of a Grade 1 field but even this fourteenth win was to be eclipsed.
She would grace the course just once more, putting up arguably the performance of her career when running riot in the Aintree Hurdle. She thrashed runner up My Tent Or Yours eighteen lengths with a further nine back to this year’s Stayers Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon, beaten out of sight in third. It was a display of breathtaking magnitude. There is a chance she could have come back bigger and better than ever this season but more niggling injuries took their toll. She bows out at the top of her game, the winner of five Grade 1 contests, she is the mare by which the future will be judged. The greatest since Dawn Run, we wish her a long and happy retirement, we can’t wait to see what she can produce in the years to come, the Festival is ready and waiting.