For all her majesty, Andy Stephens says we will always remember Annie Power for her final-flight fall at Cheltenham in 2015
By Andy Stephens
During her brilliant and prolific career, Annie Power jumped 139 hurdles and only once failed to get safely to the other side.
She can count herself a little unlucky, then, that her one blemish will be what we will always remember her for.
Even the most succesful fisherman will rue the one that got away. It was the same with Annie Power, whose fall at the final flight in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015 was perhaps the most dramatic in the history of the sport.
Earlier on that giddy sun-kissed March afternoon her three short-priced stablemates - Douvan (2-1), Un De Sceaux (4-6) and Faugheen (4-5) - had won their respective races and, for thousands of punters all over Britain, she was the fourth leg of an accumulator which had been flagged up numerous times in the build-up to Britain’s biggest meeting.
Watch the replay below and listen to the roar when she cruises to the front with two to jump and the squeals of encouragement as she motors down to the last with her rivals all toiling.
That is the sound of punters in ecstasy, when you can watch and enjoy what is unfolding without having to hold your breath or look anxiously around to see what might swoop late from behind.
Had it been a boxing match, Annie Power’s 14 rivals would have collectively thrown in the towel to escape any further punishment. The best horse, sent off at 1-2, was in front and in total command. The best horse was about to win.
The first 4min 37sec of the contest had been little more than an exhibition but, unfortunately, she spent the last 14 seconds divorced from Ruby Walsh and trying to get back on four feet.
Nobody present that day will forget the universal groan which greeted her unexpected departure.
Why did she try and fling herself over the obstacle from so far away when Walsh was sitting motionless and trying to relay she did nothing of the sort? We will never know.
All we do know is that she never fell in any of her other 16 races. In those, she negotiated 138 without a problem, although there were several other final-flight fluffs which she did not pay a penalty for.
Bookmakers believe her tumble saved them anywhere between £50 million and £100 million. It would have been their most costly day since Frankie Dettori rode all seven winners at Ascot in 1996.
Thankfully, Annie Power got up unscathed that day. It was an ugly high-speed fall and another time she might not have been so lucky.
Misery at missing out on a windfall was softened by the news that she would live to fight another day.
Her victory in the Champion Hurdle 12 months later was glorious redemption - a defining moment in a sparkling career that was rightly lauded on Tuesday when it was announced she had been retired.
She followed it with a drubbing of My Tent Or Yours and Nichols Canyon at Aintree. The official handicapper raised her to 166, the highest mark she was awarded, and her only defeat - when not completing - was when not quite lasting home in the 2014 Stayers’ Hurdle.
In total, she won 15 of her 17 races and earned Rich Ricci, her owner, £715,000 in prize money. There could be greater gifts to come because she is in foal to Camelot, the Derby winner.
Perhaps if she had run in more Champion Hurdles and been a dual or triple winner, as she might have been, we would have remembered her for that.
But instead the 2015 Mares’ Hurdle is the first thing that springs to mind.
Let’s hope Annie Power’s offspring can provide one of those “I was there” moments for all the right reasons.