The setback that will rule Faugheen out of action until next season and Annie Power’s return to action at Punchestown meant that it was a rather seismic week on the Champion Hurdle front.

The news of Faugheen’s setback came in the minutes that preceded Annie Power’s reappearance and, as odds of 1/20 suggested, she took advantage of a gilt-edged opportunity to easily beat her two overmatched rivals. Whether Annie Power deserved to assume supremacy at the head of the Champion Hurdle market on the back of this victory is highly questionable.

However, the chance to see her in open company against top-class geldings is an enthralling one. For quite some time, she has looked one of the outstanding jumping mares of modern times and she can seal her place among the greats by becoming only the second mare since Dawn Run to lift the Champion Hurdle. To do that though she will need to see off a formidable challenge from within her own stable. In truth, the standard in the Champion Hurdle is set by last year’s second, Arctic Fire, and if he runs to form, Annie Power will need to bring her form to a new level on what will be her first run over two miles for over two years.

Gordon’s century

Last week was a momentous one in the career of Gordon Elliott as the victory of Robin Thyme at Punchestown last Wednesday meant that the trainer reached a century of winners in an Irish National Hunt season for the first time. Since the summer, Elliott has had his team in terrific form and he more than deserved to reach this significant landmark which comes just a few weeks ahead of a Cheltenham Festival that promises much through the likes of Don Cossack and No More Heroes.

One that could have made a late play to join Elliott’s Cheltenham squad was Squouateur who won a quality handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday in good style. This gelding has now won three of his four starts for Elliott and his Fairyhouse display suggested that he could secure a high-profile handicap triumph before the end of the season.

It was also heartening to see former dual Cheltenham winner Salsify return to the winner’s enclosure with an ultra smooth victory over three rivals at Fairyhouse. He did no more than he was entitled to but his two recent outings have shown that he is still a force at the top of the hunter chasing division. Incredibly though, Salsify will still have to finish in the first two in a point-to-point this weekend to qualify for the Foxhunter at Cheltenham.


On the sales front, several Irish point-to-pointers found favour at the rescheduled Tattersalls Ireland January Sale at Cheltenham last week. Foremost among these was Cesar Collonges who was bought by Welsh trainer Evan Williams for £200,000 following success in a Kirkistown point the previous weekend. Cesar Collonges was sold by Warren Ewing who paid just £14,500 for him as a three-year-old.

Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott parted with a £135,000 for the Norman Lee-trained four-year-old Burren Life who would have won a Belharbour earlier in the month only to fall at the last. Elsewhere, Robert Tyner’s Reality Bites, who won a five-year-old maiden at Belharbour, cost £100,000 and was bought to join Alan King. Of the 32 horses offered, 23 were sold for an aggregate of over £1.2m. The average was just over £53,000 while the median came in at £40,000.