Saturday 7 December 2019

Canyon looks likely to get another shot at Faugheen

Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Pat Healy/PA.
Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Pat Healy/PA.

Richard Forristal

Nichols Canyon's owner Graham Wylie has suggested that the horse responsible for Faugheen's solitary defeat will get another shot at its Willie Mullins-trained stablemate in the Champion Hurdle.

The three-mile World Hurdle has been mooted as an alternative Cheltenham target for the six-time Grade One winner, which was slammed to the tune of 28 lengths by Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Nichols Canyon clearly wasn't operating at the same level at Leopardstown last month as he had when beating Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, but Wylie acknowledges Faugheen's imperious best might have been too good anyway.

"Faugheen looked very, very impressive, and I don't know, even if Nichols Canyon had turned up at his best, if he'd have got that close to him," Wylie said on At The Races.

"He was very impressive. With my fellow, we don't know if it was a hard run (at Christmas) or whether just trying to keep up with Faugheen took the legs off him. We just don't know.

"I think you'll probably see him in the Champion. It depends how he does this year, but I think we may step him up in terms of distance next season.


"Almost certainly he's going to be in the Champion Hurdle, but we'll keep our options open in case something happens between now and March 15. There is a possibility he might turn up in the World Hurdle, but then Thistlecrack looks a very good horse, too.

"The fact is that we haven't run Nichols Canyon at three miles at all. I'm not convinced, therefore, that it would be sensible to take him to the World Hurdle without knowing if he gets the trip."

Of his Grade One-winning novice hurdler Yorkhill, Wylie added: "He's obviously one of my best novices this season, if not my best novice. If he goes in the Supreme, he's up against Min; if he goes in the Neptune, he's up against Yanworth.

"He has got two tough competitors in either race. I spoke to Willie and he said he'd make up his mind nearer the time. We'll probably keep him separate from Bellshill - one of those will go in the Supreme and one in the Neptune but we don't know just yet."

Meanwhile, two high-quality British prospects were ruled out of the Festival yesterday. Gary Moore's Arkle contender Ar Mad, which returned lame after winning at Plumpton on Monday, will be sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering a condylar fracture to a front leg.

The 2013 Arkle winner Simonsig could head for Aintree or Punchestown after Nicky Henderson confirmed that his splint problem will prevent him from gracing the Cotswolds event.

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