Mullins happy ahead of Canyon run

The view from connections ahead of the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

Nichols Canyon and Danny Mullins take the last flight ahead of Faugheen and Wicklow Brave to win the Morgiana Hurdle 12 months ago.

Nichols Canyon is a hot favourite to successfully defend his crown in the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old pulled off one of the shocks of the season 12 months ago when inflicting a first defeat on Champion Hurdle-winning stable companion Faugheen.

He struck Grade One gold for a sixth time in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, but was no match for Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle and found another illustrious stable companion in Annie Power too strong in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Nichols Canyon was last seen finishing third in an American Grade One back in May and with Faugheen and Annie Power not in contention, he is all the rage to make a successful reappearance.

Mullins said: "Nichols Canyon has been good and we're very happy with him.

"He won the race last year, he likes the track and hopefully he's ready to take his chance."

The champion trainer, who has saddled the last five winners of the Morgiana, is also represented by Sempre Medici and Simenon.

With just five runners going to post, both will claim a share of the prize-money if completing the course.

"There is nothing else for the other two to run in, so we decided to let them run as well," said Mullins.

"Sempre Medici ran a very good race the last day. Simenon will probably need the run."

Taking on the Closutton trio are a pair of runners for leading owner JP McManus.

Jer's Girl ended last season in brilliant form, winning successive Grade Ones at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.

She missed her intended reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last Sunday due to a skin infection and instead makes her comeback at the highest level.

Trainer Gavin Cromwell said: "She's ready to go. We obviously had a setback last week, but hopefully she's over that and we're looking forward to running her.

"The race has cut up a bit, but it's still very competitive. Nichols Canyon is a very good horse. We're very happy with our filly and she's as fit as we can get her at home."

Last season's Triumph Hurdle hero Ivanovich Gorbatov completes the field.

The Joseph O'Brien-trained four-year-old has the benefit of race fitness having run at Naas a fortnight ago, but was well beaten that day.

"He's in good form and hopefully he's come forward since his run in Naas. We were expecting him to get a bit tired that day and he did," said O'Brien.

"Hopefully he'll run a bit better on Sunday in what is a very good race."

Read More at Sporting Life

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