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Ruby Walsh: Faugheen’s injury has left me gutted and don’t even talk to me about Annie Power’s next target

Is Annie Power a ready-made replacement for Faugheen? Well she looked back to her best in today's Punchestown stroll ...

by Ruby Walsh | February 17, 2016

It’s not often you leave the racecourse disappointed after riding a treble but the news that Faugheen will miss the Champion Hurdle through injury has left me gutted.

The news broke just as I was looking forward to riding Annie Power starting her season off at Punchestown.

He hadn’t actually done any proper work since his Leopardstown victory last month and had just been cantering away under regular work rider John Codd before the injury was detected.

How long will it take him to recover ? I’m not really sure. Once I heard the news I was too shocked and disappointed to focus on the detail. It was as a shock and then a real feeling of disappointment.

We’ve a huge team of horses going to Cheltenham but he was the defending champion.

He looked to be the ace-in-the-pack particularly after putting in such a stunning performance in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.


A piece of work

On a more positive note, Annie Power gave me a little more cause for optimism as she was rock-solid today.

It was like a piece of work to her. She was fresh and well and while I couldn’t say the first-time hood had the desired effect of making her settle better in her races – it didn’t hinder her either.

But she was still quite keen in running and eager to get on with it. That’s not surprising as it was her first run since winning in May at the Punchestown Festival.

Don’t even f***ing ask me what race she’s going for at the Festival as I don’t know yet. She has the option of the Mares Hurdle & World Hurdle but has to be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle.

In hindsight, it’s great she had a run today given what has happened with Faugheen. But as I said yesterday there were plenty of people putting two and two together and getting seven.

And they’ll do the same now for her next target now too.

Annie-Power winning at Punchestown

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Best-laid plans

But Willie Mullins won’t be committing horses to anything until he has to. And why should he? The best-laid plans came come to nothing in this game in the blink of an eye. Faugheen and Killutagh Vic are proof of that.

The inevitable question will now switch to who I’ll ride in the Champion Hurdle. A bit like my like my Gold Cup mount, I won’t be committing to that until I have to.

Annie Power could be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle but at this stage the handicapper has Arctic Fire as the most likely winner now that Faugheen is out. And he was second in the race last year.

But Nichols Canyon did beat Faugheen at Punchestown earlier in the season and was probably feeling the effects of his win against Identity Thief at Christmas when he was under par last time in the Irish Champion Hurdle – but nobody would have beaten Faugheen that day.

That’s why his absence is such a kick in the b*******.


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