Canyon faces crucial test

Owner Graham Wylie expects to learn more about Nichols Canyon's ambitions for the rest of the season in Sunday's BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Nichols Canyon: Runs at Leopardstown

The Authorized gelding has been a fantastic servant to connections, winning at Grade One level on no less than seven occasions.

He inflicted a shock defeat on stable companion Faugheen in last season's Morgiana Hurdle and successfully defended his crown in that Punchestown contest in November.

However, he proved no match for Petit Mouchoir in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting and now has something to prove as a result.

Wylie said: "It's a fact-finding mission because he was disappointing at Leopardstown.

"Take nothing away from Petit Mouchoir, who ran a great race in a fast time, but we don't think Nichols Canyon ran his race.

"We'll see how he goes on Sunday and it will tell us whether he's a Champion Hurdle contender or we need to step up in trip."

Nichols Canyon is entered in both the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

With stable jockey Ruby Walsh unsurprisingly siding with Faugheen on his first start since landing this prize in scintillating style 12 months ago, Paul Townend comes in for the ride on Nichols Canyon.

"He didn't run up to his best the last day for whatever reason, but his work at home is good," Townend told At The Races.

"It'll be hard to beat Faugheen any day, but he beat him last year on Faugheen's first run, so we'll see what happens.

"I've ridden him plenty and won his first Grade One on him.

"Hopefully he can put up a good show."

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir, a former Mullins inmate, could hardly have been more impressive over the festive period.

De Bromhead said: "He seems in good form. Obviously it's a big test for him, but we'll go and take our chance and see how we get on."

Read More at Sporting Life

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