Nichols Canyon another reliable super sub for Mullins
Nichols Canyon (right) edges out Identity Thief 12 months ago
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) Nichols Canyon another Mullins super sub By David Jennings 7:00aM 29 DEC 2016
THE wait goes on. The longer the wait, the more we pine. No Faugheen. No Annie Power. This, we hoped and thought, would be when we finally get another glimpse of one of the last two Champion Hurdle winners. But, alas, neither is here.
It is lucky Willie Mullins can spring a seven-time Grade 1 winner off the bench. In any other stable, Nichols Canyon would be a prized possession. A horse of a lifetime. In Closutton, he is merely an ultra-reliable replacement when Annie Power and Faugheen are off colour.
Mullins said: "Nichols Canyon is a very good horse, as his record of seven Grade 1 wins over hurdles shows. He loves Leopardstown and the ground will be fine for him. He was good when winning the Morgiana Hurdle last month and if he runs close to his best then you'd like to think it would be enough for him to win the race again."
In the Morgiana at Punchestown last month Nichols Canyon proved himself the most able of deputies. He registered back-to-back wins in that Grade 1 in impressive style, making all and stretching 12 lengths clear of Jer's Girl in effortless fashion.
He is the defending champion of this race too, having bravely fought off the persistent challenge of Identity Thief in a dour battle 12 months ago and deserves to be odds-on favourite.
Standing in his way are four rivals, one more than he faced last year. Petit Mouchoir, last seen when crashing out when leading the Fighting Fifth field, is the most obvious danger.
A trio of four-year-olds- the Mullins-trained Footpad, Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov and dual Grade 1 winner Jer's Girl- complete the line-up.