Canyon follows up in Morgiana
Nichols Canyon added another Grade One victory to his already-impressive tally when barely breaking sweat in winning back-to-back runnings of the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle.
Nichols Canyon clears the last on the way to winning the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle for the second year running.
It was a sixth consecutive win in the race for Willie Mullins following on from Thousand Stars and Hurricane Fly three times.
Ruby Walsh set out to make all on the now seven-time Grade One winner and while he had the filly Jer's Girl for company, she could not live with the Graham Wylie-owned six-year-old in the straight, going down by 12 lengths.
Last seen competing in America, Nichols Canyon, the 8/13 favourite, only looked a back-up plan for Mullins at the beginning of the week.
Mullins had hoped to unleash one of his two Champion Hurdle winners, Faugheen and Annie Power, but the former was ruled out with a foot bruise and Annie Power worked unsatisfactorily.
However, pleasingly for Nichols Canyon's supporters, he jumped notably well throughout and confirmed himself a smart peformer in his own right.
"She (Jer's Girl) travelled really well with me and we went a good gallop the whole way," said Walsh.
"It was a Grade One run at Grade One pace and he got the better of her at the second-last and then it was all over.
"He had a very hard race at Leopardstown last Christmas against Identity Thief and that might have left a mark for the rest of the season, but he was very good today.
"He doesn't get the credit he should. He jumped to his right in America and at Aintree, but he was straight today."
Nichols Canyon was trimmed from 10/1 to 8/1 by Sky Bet for next year's World Hurdle, a particularly fascinating ante-post market given neither of the joint-favourites, Faugheen and Thistlecrack, could in any way be described as being currently on-course for the race.
Mullins said: "I'm very pleased. He had to come in as a sub, but he did it nicely.
"Ruby said they went a very good gallop the whole way and his stamina just won out.
"Jer's Girl decided to take him on early, that's what she normally does, and he just kept galloping with her and he just outstayed her. The conditions of the race suited him.
"He's just got lots of stamina and once it became a test of stamina the conditions suited him more than any other horse in the race."
He went on: "This wasn't part of the plan. It was just the way things worked out so I'm not sure where I'm going to go next with him.
"At least we know he's not too bad at that trip. He jumps fantastically and he goes a very very good gallop over two miles so he's competitive at it.
"I'd imagine we will be stepping up in trip. Last season we were looking at the World Hurdle but it didn't happen and perhaps we could end up there this season. I just haven't got the next race picked out for him yet. I'd imagine it'll be Christmas.
"He was very exuberant today. He's very brave and I was hoping that his jumping wasn't going to take too much out of him, but he put the other horses under pressure with his jumping."