ANNIE POWER was receiving 11lb when beating Zarkandar by five lengths at Ascot in November but took a long time to master the seven-year-old and her old rival is 4lb better here. He also has vital Cheltenham experience having won the Triumph Hurdle in 2011 and finished fourth to Hurricane Fly in last year's Champion Hurdle whereas Willie Mullins' mare will be seeing the HQ of National Hunt racing for the first time. But we're going to stick with Ruby Walsh's mount as she always seems to find more when required. Empire Levant is in as a pacemaker and is likely to be coming home in his own time.
Zarkandar (IRE) 5-2 (11-8) Tracked leader, challenged 4th, led next, ridden, headed and bumped before last, rallied and joined winner flat, no impression inside final 100 yards, 2nd of 7, 6l behind The New One (11-8) at Cheltenham 2m 1f hdl G2 (1) gd in Dec.
Annie Power (IRE) 8-13fav (10-11) Held up in 4th, left 3rd at 4th, headway to track leader and hit 4 out, challenged and hit 2 out, quickened to lead last, soon driven and stayed on to forge clear final 150 yards, won at Ascot 2m 3f hdl G2 (1) gs in Nov beating Zarkandar (11-8) by 5l, 4 ran.
Empire Levant (USA) 14-1 (11-6) Led, blundered 2nd, headed before 3 out, weakened before 2 out, 8th of 10, 23l behind Makari (11-0) at Doncaster 2m hcp hdl (2) gd in Dec.