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Annie Power shows no signs of letting up with ninth win

The brilliant Irish mare Annie Power strengthened her big-race claims when easing to an impressive success on her rain-soaked Cheltenham reconnaissance mission in the Dornan Engineering Hurdle.

Prominent in the ante-post markets on the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was running over an extended two and a half miles having been successful at just short of that trip at Ascot on her seasonal return.

Like at Ascot her main market rival was the Paul Nicholls-trained Zarkandar, with the Ditcheat trainer also fielding Empire Levant.

With just three runners, Ruby Walsh was content to sit behind the pace-setting grey Empire Levant before jumping two out upsides.

The latter weakened coming down the hill, where 2-5 favourite Annie Power took over. Zarkandar tried to go with Walsh's mount but despite a slight mistake at the final flight, Annie Power pulled a ready eight lengths clear up the hill to extend her unbeaten record to nine from nine.

Walsh said: "She's a very good mare, and was entitled to improve from her first run back at Ascot. She handled the ground and jumped very well, apart from a minor hiccup at the last. Although this ground isn't easy on the eye, it's a pleasure to ride on and she appeared to enjoy it. If you look back, all the best horses go on the soft, look at Denman, Hurricane Fly and Kauto Star, they all handled those conditions. She's nine from nine now, and that's not easy."

Paddy Power left the winner at 6-1 for the World Hurdle and cut her to 10-1 from 12s for the Champion.

Oscar Whisky strengthened his claims for what will probably be a tilt at the Jewson Novices' Chase with a clear-cut defeat of Taquin Du Seuil in the Cheltenham Pony Club Raceday Novices' Chase.

His three-quarters of a length verdict might have been lessened had the runner-up not nodded on landing over the last with Tony McCoy, but the way Barry Geraghty's mount galloped up the hill it is hard to imagine the result was affected.

Nicky Henderson is ready to give his 5-6 winner another outing ahead of the Festival, and said: "He's on the older side to be switching to fences at nine, and I must wish him happy birthday, but he's taken to it well. He's a stuffy horse so we'll probably give him another run. It could be in the Scilly Isles [at Sandown].

Lizzie Kelly ensured a couple of bubbles were burst in the opener as she made most of the running on 9-1 shot Aubusson to see-off a Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle field that included the vaunted Ballyalton and Racing Pulse.

Meanwhile, Ryan Mania took Musselburgh by storm when booting home a 111-1 treble on Mr Moonshine, Swing Hard and Any Given Moment.

The latter won the concluding three-mile hurdle for Sandy Thomson while Mr Moonshine saw off Viva Colonia by two and a quarter lengths in the totepool.com Scottish Premier Chase with Swing Hard taking the Happy New Year From totepool Handicap Chase by the same margin ahead of Presented.

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