Nichols Canyon a game winner of the Stayers' Hurdle

Filed on 17 Mar 2017 @ 12:21

Trainer Willie Mullins registered his first success in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle and along with jockey Ruby Walsh, gained his third victory of the day at the Cheltenham Festival, after Nichols Canyon ran out a game 10/1 winner of the three-mile hurdling showpiece, the feature race on day three of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

In a superb finish to the Grade One event, Walsh and the seven-year-old son of Authorized kept on resolutely up the stands' side rail to get the better of Neil King's ultra-consistent Lil Rockerfeller (33/1) by three-quarters of a length.

The well-backed 5/6 favourite Unowhatimeanharry, trained by Harry Fry, was a further three and a half-lengths back in third.

A delighted Mullins, registering his 51st winner at The Festival, said: "It was some performance. I didn't think three miles would suit him particularly as I thought he would be too keen, but Ruby got him settled and got the rail in the home straight.

"He is tough and with age they learn to settle. His last bit of work, we changed his stable and his work rider. He always works a bit dead at home so we thought about a change of routine and it worked.

"I thought of all the horses in the world you want to jump the last, you want him and he did. He had the benefit of the rail which also helped.

"He has handled very soft ground over two miles but he handled that ground today fine.

"It's absolutely magic. I enjoyed that one, the first two were probably relief but that was a little unexpected as I was wondering whether he would come alive as he hasn't in his two races this season."

Nichols Canyon gave Ruby Walsh a fifth Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle success.

Walsh's four previous wins in the race came aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck's (2009-2012).

Nichols Canyon, a seven-year-old by Authorized, is trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie.

Walsh, for whom it was a 55th Festival win, said: "Nichols Canyon is a little warrior, isn't he? He switched off, he jumped, and crept away.

"I thought Lil Rockerfeller was battling back close home but Nichols Canyon galloped all the way to the line.

"He started to come back to himself the last 10 days. Maisie has been riding him and she was happy. Katie (sister) rode him at the Curragh the other morning and she thought he worked very well.

"Yesterday morning, whatever way you looked at it, this fella had won seven Grade Ones, albeit at shorter distances. I suppose he will have to go for the Iroquois [the $200,000 TVV Capital Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge, with $500,000 going to any horse who can win both the Sun Bet Stayer's Hurdle and the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle at Percy Warner Park, Nashville, Tennessee] to see if he can get the bonus. He was third last year.

"It is brilliant for Andrea and Graham. They are great supporters and this is the race Graham likes."

Graham Wylie said: "When Willie bought this horse for me, he said 'I might just have found you the next Inglis Drever [Wylie's Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle winner in 2005, 2008 and 2008]. This is the little horse's eighth Grade One and he hasn't got the plaudits he deserved; hopefully today he will do.

"I said to Andrea this morning, I hope today is the Willie Mullins-Ruby Walsh day, and so it's proved. I was hoping to get placed, but I saw him coming up the hill and he was absolutely flying, so I thought, 'we might just nick this'."

Filed on 17 Mar 2017 @ 12:21