Canyon back in business
Nichols Canyon bounced back after unseating his rider at Leopardstown over Christmas with a convincing all-the-way win in the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at the Dublin track.
The five-year-old, completing a Grade One double for trainer Willie Mullins after the success of Petite Parisienne earlier on the card, pulled clear of the opposition in the straight to score in great style.
Stablemate Alvisio Ville tried to keep tabs on him but was well held from two out under Tony McCoy and faded once Ruby Walsh pressed the button on Nichols Canyon (9-2).
Windsor Park came from last to claim second place, three and a half lengths behind the winner, with 11-10 favourite Alvisio Ville third.
"He did what he does on the Flat - stays. He jumped and stayed and he's improving all the time," said Mullins.
"He was disappointing at Christmas, to do what he did. I thought he might not beat the grey horse (Alvisio Ville) but I'd say the grey horse lacked experience and beat himself. Remember the winner is a professional racehorse.
"I'm very pleased with him. I imagine he would be a Neptune type, but I wouldn't rule out the Supreme. It will depend on what way the ball bounces with other horses. He's in the three races, but I think it'll be the Supreme or Neptune as we have plenty of horses for the Albert Bartlett.
"The way he jumped I wouldn't be afraid to go back to two miles. He was gaining half a length or a length at his hurdles there. He did it the hard way from the front and that's the way you could win at Cheltenham."
Walsh said: "He was keen enough in front. He jumped reasonably well. On his Flat form I thought he was more of a stayer. He's gone a good gallop in front and took a good grip with me all the way, but he stays and he's a high-class horse."
Delighted owner Graham Wylie said: "I'm delighted for Ruby and the horse and well done to Willie as well. As always, I will leave the Cheltenham decisions to Willie - on that performance today, it could be the Neptune, but I really don't know.
"He's got bags of stamina. I had a very, very good horse some years ago called Inglis Drever who had bags of stamina and I'm just hoping that maybe - he's a tough act to follow - but maybe he is up there with him."
On Alvisio Ville, Mullins said: "He'll learn an awful lot from that. He was very keen and we'll maybe change a couple of things for his next run. You might get away with running a maiden hurdle winner in a Grade One in the autumn but he's facing handicappers there.
"He's probably a chaser in the making and has a lot to learn about racing. Tony said we could bring him back to two miles as he was too keen but I'd probably rather go out in trip and change tactics."