Cheltenham Festival 2014: Annie Power has right make-up to beat Big Buck's in Ladbrokes World Hurdle

A look ahead to today's main event

When Ruby Walsh elected this season to cut down his commuting by throwing his riding lot in wholly with Willie Mullins rather than splitting his time between Ireland's perennial champion and his British oppo Paul Nicholls, his chief regret was the loss of the ride on Big Buck's, the best long-distance hurdler there has ever been. He might have imagined lining up against him in Thursday afternoon's Ladbrokes World Hurdle, but hardly on a horse favourite to beat the great champion.

The emergence of Annie Power has been one of the revelations of the season. The mare is unbeaten and unextended in 10 runs and even Mullins has not yet ascertained the extent of her ability. Females do not often beat males at championship level – the last of only two to do so in this marathon test was Shiul Ar Aghaidh 21 years ago – but Annie Power might just be a freakish talent.

She is certainly in the physical mould of a mystical Irish mare of yesteryear; like Dawn Run, the only animal ever to win a Champion Hurdle and a Gold Cup, she is built more like a gelding and is strong-headed with it, though prettier about the face. She is untried over as far as three miles but on a visit to Cheltenham in January the further she galloped up the finishing hill, the further she left a decent yardstick in Zarkandar behind.

Big Buck's is going for a fifth World Hurdle. He has never lost one he has run in, but his sequence ended when he had to miss last year's edition because of injury. And his aura of invincibility has gone; he was beaten – albeit narrowly – on his comeback run here in January as he tried to extend his winning streak over hurdles to 19.

He is still the highest-rated horse in the field and Nicholls is adamant he will go to the fray fully fit after his allowably ring-rusty return to action. Whether or not a set of flashy yellow, cutting-edge racing plates help him perform – and overcome the statistic that only one his age, 11, has won the race – remains to be seen.

Any race is largely about the horses involved but in this case there cannot help but be a human dimension. Big Buck's' new rider this term is the young buck Sam Twiston-Davies after Nicholls' stable jockey Daryl Jacob declined the offer of what he saw as a poisoned chalice.

On Thursday Jacob will be on stablemate Celestial Halo, runner-up to currently sidelined Solwhit 12 months ago. It was no fault of Twiston-Davies that his mount was beaten in January but he was, and no man will know better than Walsh how to do it again. Of the rest, At Fishers' Cross and Rule The World make most appeal. However, Annie Power (3.20) has not only lived up to her name so far, but gets a 7lb allowance from the boys.

The afternoon's other Grade One senior prize, the Ryanair Chase, is something of a betwixt and between affair, contested by horses who variously own neither the speed, stamina nor class for the Champion Chase or the Gold Cup. A chance is taken that Dynaste (2.40), one of the least exposed in the field, can bounce back to the form that made him one of last year's most exciting novices.

There is nothing odd about the coupling of Walsh and Felix Yonger (1.30) in the opener, and tentative suggestions for plotting through the minefield handicaps are Vics Canvas (2.05), Tap Night (4.00) and There's No Panic (4.40).

What's in a name?

Captain Ocana (1.30)

A Mexican pilot who made an emergency landing at Mallow Racecourse, Co Cork, in 1983 after his jet ran out of fuel en route to Munich.

 

Vukovar (1.30)

Croatia's biggest river port, at the confluence of the Vuka and Danube.

 

Fingal Bay (2.05)

White-sanded mile-long inlet on coast of New South Wales, part of Tomaree National Park.

Lie Forrit (2.05)

An exhortation to your side's scrum on a Scottish rugby field.

Rajdhani Express (2.40)

A superfast railway service in India.

Mala Beach (3.20)

On the Cote d'Azur; named for the eponymous dancer who walked there with her Russian Tsar lover, Nicholas II.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform