Canyon chasing eighth Grade One

The view from connections ahead of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on the final day of the Christmas Festival.

Nichols Canyon (right) just gets the better of Identity Thief to win the Ryanair Hurdle 12 months ago.

Connections of Nichols Canyon feel he does not get the credit he deserves as he goes in search of an eighth Grade One win in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Winner of the race 12 months ago following a titanic battle with Identity Thief, the six-year-old was an easy victor of the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last time out.

"He won this race last year and was very impressive in the Morgiana," said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, Willie.

"He's an exceptional horse – so tough – and he's won so many Grade Ones.

"I'm not sure he gets the recognition he deserves. Maybe that's because he hasn't won at Cheltenham yet, who knows.

"He's just a very brave, tough horse. He's not very big, a bit like Hurricane Fly in that respect, but, just like him, he tries his heart out every time."

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Mullins also runs the four-year-old Footpad, already a Grade One winner in France and Ireland.

"He won a Grade One over course and distance last season when Danny (Mullins) rode him," said Mullins jnr.

"I'm just not sure what that juvenile from last year is worth.

"I know Apple's Jade won the Hatton's Grace but that was over two and a half (miles) and the two-milers have struggled.

"Footpad will have to step up to trouble Nichols Canyon."

Petit Mouchoir goes in another Grade One after having missed a gilt-edged opening in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, when he travelled powerfully but fell at the third-last. Bryan Cooper rides for Henry de Bromhead.

"This has been his aim since Newcastle," Cooper told At The Races. "It was terrible he came down because I thought he would have won.

"I know Apple's Jade was in the race but I was on the right one that day. With Apple's Jade winning the Hatton's Grace, the form had a boost and he'll like the ground.

"I know he's got 11lb to find with Nichols Canyon but if we want to go down the Champion Hurdle route he's got to be going close to winning."

The JP McManus-owned pair of Ivanovich Gorbatov (Joseph O'Brien) and Jer's Girl (Gavin Cromwell) complete the field.

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