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Annie Power set for return as Mullins rolls out big guns for Punchestown

Un De Sceaux, Djakadam, Nichols Canyon and Vroum Vroum Mag will also be among the champion trainer’s contingent.

Ruby Walsh aboard Annie Power en route to winning the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Ruby Walsh aboard Annie Power en route to winning the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CHAMPION TRAINER WILLIE Mullins has confirmed that star mare Annie Power will have her first start in more than 12 months as he prepares to roll out the big guns for the Punchestown Festival later this month.

The 2016 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner missed this year’s festival at Prestbury Park through injury but Closutton handler Mullins has confirmed the nine-year-old will be fit for the 25-29 April festival, as he bids to close the gap on Gordon Elliott in the trainers’ championship.

Mullins is yet to decide which race to enter Annie Power in at the Kildare track with three options — the Stayers Hurdle, the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and the Mares Champion Hurdle — to choose from.

“Annie Power is in good order and she is working well in preparation for Punchestown,” Mullins said of the mare that hasn’t run since winning the Aintree Hurdle in April 2016.

“We’re very happy to have her back obviously and looking forward to seeing her out again.

“She’s very adaptable and has top-class form over a variety of trips. Consequently she holds entries in the BETDAQ Champion Hurdle over two miles, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle over two-and-a-half and the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle over three miles, so we’ll decide on her target next week.”

Mullins, who trails Elliott by just over €360,000 in the trainers’ title race, is sending a star-studded team to the festival with the likes of Un De Sceaux, Djakadam, Nichols Canyon and Vroum Vroum Mag confirmed as runners.

More than €2.9 million in prize money will be on offer over the five days of national hunt racing which concludes the season and Mullins will be hoping to be the leading trainer at the showpiece Irish event for the 12th successive year, and the 15th time in total.

Djakadam, which was sent off as 3/1 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup only to finish fourth, will contest the Punchestown Gold Cup on 26 April, with Sizing John and Coneygree likely opponents.

Ryanair Chase winner Un De Sceaux will step back to two miles for the Punchestown Champion Chase, a race stablemate Ballycasey is also expected to run in.

Cheltenham Stayers Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon will line up in the Punchestown equivalent on 27 April while the versatile Vroum Vroum Mag has plenty of options — a choice between the Champion Hurdle, Stayers Hurdle or Mares Champion Hurdle being the most likely for the eight-year-old.

Cheltenham JLT Novices’ Chase winner Yorkhill is racing at Fairyhouse this weekend but could still feature in one of the novice chases at Punchestown depending on how things transpire.

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