Irish Eyes: Grand Canyon
Our Irish Eyes column previews Thursday's meeting at Leopardstown with Nichols Canyon going for glory in the Ryanair Hurdle.
Nichols Canyon: Should have few problems on Thursday
It's fairly obvious that Willie Mullins has his team in sparkling form at the moment but his brother Tom is motoring along as well at the moment.
From his last six runners, he's had a winner at Leopardstown (That's A Wrap), two seconds and a third and his only runner on Thursday warrants attention, especially considering his brother doesn't have a representative in the race!
Arctic Light was picked up by Tom Mullins out of the Ger Lyons stable as an unraced 3yo for just €5,000 and 11 months later, he won a Punchestown bumper on his racecourse debut with Patrick Mullins in the saddle on good ground.
On his next start, the partnership remained intact but Arctic Light was unable to concede upwards of 7lb all round, finishing second to the Gordon Elliot-trained Samcro who proceeded to win a Listed bumper on his next start.
This time Mullins employs the services of Richard Deegan, to take 7lb off the horse's back, but a more crucial factor may be the ground.
As an Iffraaj gelding out of a Sadler's Well's mare, he is likely to need good ground to be seen at his best which is what he got on debut but it was soft for his second start.
As a result of the very dry winter we are experiencing, Leopardstown is edging closer and closer to good ground all week and even the current yielding conditions, coupled with Deegan's claim, could see Arctic Light return to the winners' enclosure again.
In the earlier races, it's the man who has already won over 57% of the 21 races run at Leopardstown this week, Willie Mullins, that is likely to dominate (add in Tom's winner and the Mullins' have actually won 62% of all the winning prizemoney this week!).
Nichols Canyon looks to have the Ryanair Hurdle at his mercy for the second successive year, with Willie having taken the race on four of the previous five years as well courtesy of Hurricane Fly.
Nichols Canyon may not be as highly acclaimed as Hurricane Fly just yet but, after he won his maiden, he has competed exclusively in Grade One company. He has eight hurdle wins from 14 starts, seven of those in Grade Ones.
That is a serious haul for a horse that is still only a 6yo and it is worth noting that, at the same stage of his career, Hurricane Fly 'only' had five Grade 1 wins to his name. Therefore it could be argued that Nichols Canyon is amassing a fantastic record without getting the credit he deserves.
He has 11lb in hand of all of his rivals, so no matter what way one looks at this race, the 8/15 about Nichols Canyon screams nap, granted normal luck in running.
Next Best: Arctic Light, 3.35 Leopardstown. 7/2 general.
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