'I can't see Annie Power winning Champion Hurdle' - Paul Nicholls

Paul Nicholls with his chasing star Silviniaco Conti
Paul Nicholls with his chasing star Silviniaco Conti

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls believes Identity Thief could be the one to beat in the Stan James Champion Hurdle next month.

Nicholls, who is set to run Old Guard in the race, feels Henry de Bromhead's Fighting Fifth winner has gone somewhat under the radar.

One horse who Nicholls thinks has a bit to find with the main contenders is the mare Annie Power, who was catapulted to favouritism even though she needs supplementing in the absence of stablemate Faugheen.

"I don't know whether Old Guard will win it but it is a lot more open now Faugheen is out of the race," said Nicholls, speaking at a Cheltenham preview after racing at Ascot on Saturday.

"Old Guard loves Cheltenham and he loves better ground. Although he was beaten on Boxing Day I was glad I ran him as I've now given him a month off so he will go there a fresh horse.

"Annie Power was talked about for the Mares' Hurdle and World Hurdle and now she is being talked about winning the Champion Hurdle but I can't see her winning it.

Willie Mullins stable jockey Ruby Walsh with star mare Annie Power

"It is a very open race. My Tent Or Yours has not been seen for two years so I can't see him winning while Peace And Co has had his problems.

"Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire are good horses but only ran ordinary races the other day. The one I like is Identity Thief."

- PA