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.

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all