Walsh: Allowance in Annie's favour
Ruby Walsh feels the 7lb allowance Annie Power has against her male counterparts will make her very hard to beat - whether she runs over two miles or three at the Cheltenham Festival.
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The decision over whether the unbeaten mare tackles stablemate Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle or steps up to three miles for the World Hurdle in March is unlikely to be made until much nearer the time, but that is of little concern to Walsh.
Willie Mullins' stable jockey believes the way Annie Power has twice brushed aside Zarkandar this season bodes well for the future.
"I honestly don't know what race would be best for her," Walsh told Racing UK.
"She travelled really well [at Cheltenham] and jumped nicely apart from the last, which she got under, but I was impressed with the way she gathered herself up after it and got going again very quickly.
"Zarkandar is a good yardstick, he's been second to Annie Power twice this year and second to The New One and last year he beat Rock On Ruby and Grandouet in the International.
"Annie Power has beaten him comfortably twice but the one advantage she's always going to have is the 7lb allowance and it is going to take a good gelding to give her 7lb and a beating, be it [over] two miles or three miles.
"Willie won't have the discussion about her race at the Festival for another six, seven or eight weeks. She'll have another run before than and will maybe answer a few more questions then.
"Her training wouldn't change if she was going to run over two miles or three."
Meanwhile, Walsh feels Rubi Ball could be a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender as long as the ground is soft.
Sent to Willie Mullins having enjoyed a great career in France, Rubi Ball ran a blinder in the Lexus over Christmas, finishing third behind Bobs Worth.
The Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 9 is likely to be his next target and Walsh believes if the ground is softer than last month, he will take a good deal of beating.
"We were delighted with Rubi Ball's run in the Lexus. He was third, just behind First Lieutenant on his first run over fences in Ireland as all his runs before that had been in France. It was something new for him, but we loved the way he travelled and jumped," Walsh told Racing UK.
"He had a lot of form in France on softer ground and Leopardstown over Christmas was only good to soft at worst.
"He'll have another run, probably in the Hennessy, and if it was a bit softer I'd be hoping he could go close and he could turn into a Gold Cup horse.
"He's going the right way and we were delighted with his run.
"It will be a very good Gold Cup. Silviniaco Conti stayed really well at Kempton and Cheltenham won't inconvenience him, he'll get home over three and a quarter (miles). I was very impressed with the way Bobs Worth quickened up at Leopardstown after the last, you could almost see his stride lengthen.
"Barry (Geraghty) was impressed and he's a good judge. He has an excellent record at Cheltenham."