Willie Mullins leads tributes to Annie Power after retirement
Willie Mullins led the tributes to Annie Power after time was called on the racing career of the brilliant mare.
Winner of the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in devastating style under Ruby Walsh, Mullins' attempts to get her back on track last season repeatedly met with setbacks.
Already in foal to Derby winner Camelot, Annie Power's last race was a crushing defeat of My Tent Or Yours in the Aintree Hurdle at Liverpool, where she extended her superiority over one of the ultra-consistent runner-up to 18 lengths.
Owned by Rich Ricci, she retires with a record under Rules of 17 races and 15 wins, with six at the highest level.
The only horse to finish in front of her when she stood up was Jonjo O'Neill's More Of That in the 2014 World Hurdle at Cheltenham, her only start over three miles.
Then 12 months later she famously fell at the last in the Mares' Hurdle with the race at her mercy, saving the bookmakers millions after Mullins had already had three winners on the card.
In winning the Champion Hurdle a year later she became the first mare to be successful since Flakey Dove in 1994 and her exploits possibly only fall short to Dawn Run as the best National Hunt racemare of the modern era. Dawn Run was, of course, trained by Mullins' father, Paddy.
"My favourite memory of her was when she landed running at the back of the last in the Champion Hurdle," Mullins told Press Association Sport.
"After what had happened the year before I was able to enjoy her running up the hill on her own.
"She might have achieved a higher figure at Aintree, and in beating My Tent Or Yours so much easier there you could argue that was her best display, but just with everything that goes with Cheltenham I'd have been disappointed if we didn't win one with her.
"At the beginning I bought her for fences, believe it or not, so if I've one regret it's that we never saw her jump a fence because I think she'd have been brilliant.
"She had so much size and scope about her it was always in my mind - but the Champion Hurdle has to be the highlight."
When asked if Mullins would like to train one of her offspring, he said: "I'm just happy to have her in this instance, but of course I'm as curious as everyone else will be to find out how good a broodmare she will become."
A trip to France had been mooted along with the possibility of a run on the Flat, but Mullins had reported for some time that her old sparkle was missing on the gallops.
Annie Power won her first two bumpers in the colours of owner/breeder Eamon Cleary when she was trained by Jim Bolger and ridden by Patrick Mullins, who was also on board for her first two wins in his father's care.
Ricci said Annie Power would "always hold a special place" in his affections.
He said: "I think of her as a wonderful racemare who produced probably the two most memorable moments in recent Cheltenham history, when she firstly fell at the last in the mares' race and the following year won the Champion Hurdle.
"She will always hold a special place in the affections of myself, Susannah (wife) and our family.
"We're lucky that she gets to retire as a Grade One-winning championship mare."
Walsh told Racing UK: "She was a brilliant mare. We didn't have much luck with her this year, but she's sound and well and retiring to the breeding shed - to me sadness would have been if something happened to her.
"We had so much belief in her at home, it was a relief she got to deliver that in the Champion Hurdle. To do it in a championship race against the geldings was great.
"She was always in control, my one worry was if her jumping would hold up at that pace, but she never missed a beat, she was never going to be beaten.
"I've been lucky enough to have her at home the last two summers and she's like a lamb.
"Any horse that wins lots of races is great. She delivered on big days, with Faugheen and Arctic Fire having gone by the wayside she delivered when you needed her.
"She'll take a fair bit of replacing, but it was great to have had her."
Remembering Annie Power's dramatic eclipse in the Mares' Hurdle, Coral's David Stevens said: "It was described as the most expensive fall in history and I think nothing since then has got near it.
"The estimates varied from £20million to £40million. I'd probably put it somewhere around the middle of that, but we are talking tens of millions of pounds.
"It would have been the final leg of a superb day for Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and obviously for punters.
"And I remember it vividly. We stood there and were consigned to our fate.
"We were getting ready to write the obituaries for bookmakers and then we all know what happened. It was most surreal."