Stayers’ Hurdle: Mullins bandwagon rolls on with Canyon
Nichols Canyon: won the 2017 Stayers' Hurdle
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) Mullins and Walsh bag treble with Nichols By Stuart Riley 3:37PM 16 MAR 2017
Report: Cheltenham, Thursday
Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m7f213y, 4yo+
MUCH was made that after two days Willie Mullins was yet to saddle a winner, but the Closutton machine clicked into gear in fine style on Thursday with Ruby Walsh guiding home Nichols Canyon for a third win on the day for the pair.
Hot on the heels of Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux, the 10-1 chance Nichols Canyon made it eight career Grade 1s and a first success at Cheltenham, downing the odds-on Unowhatimeanharry.
Whereas Walsh's first two wins were met with cries of Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, here he all but silenced the crowds who let out a cheer every time the big screen showed a close-up of the red-hot favourite and positively roared when he turned in tanking.
But Noel Fehily was soon sending out the distress signals as Lil Rockerfeller shot clear off the front and in doing so looked to have dashed the rider's hopes of landing all four championship races. But Unowhatimeanharry is nothing if not game and he rallied to the cause, slowly hunting Lil Rockerfeller down approaching the last.
But on the rail Walsh was looming into contention in the Andrea and Graham Wylie silks that are so synonymous with this race through Inglis Drever.
He jumped the last, took the lead and forged clear on the former Neptune and Champion Hurdle third, pulling three-quarters of a length clear of the ultra game 33-1 shot Lil Rockerfeller, with Unowhatimeanharry a further three and a half lengths back in third.
"He's a little warrior," said Walsh of his diminutive ally. "He's switched off and crept and picked them off. I thought Lil Rockerfeller was coming back at me but he's battled all the way to the line.
"It's great for Graham and Andrea, they're great supporters of ours and this is a race he likes."
On the stable's improved fortunes, Walsh added: "It's like anything in life, there are ups and downs and you have to take the downs as well as the ups."
Harry Fry suggested Unowhatimeanharry found the ground quick enough, and said: "He ran his heart out and credit to the winning connections, what a day they are having. Touch wood he seems fine and we live to fight another day."
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