All you need to know as Canyon faces off with Apple's Jade in Hatton's Grace
Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle (Grade 1) | 4yo and up |2m4f | ATR
Another Grade 1 with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott the protaganists and a fascinating clash between Nichols Canyon and Apple's Jade, who between them have won 13 Grade 1s.
Both trainers are represented in all three Grade 1s on Sunday's card and no trainer has won the three big Fairyhouse events in one year.
Nichols Canyon, an eight-time winner at the top level from two miles to three miles, has won first time out in the previous three seasons he has raced and the Mullins-trained seven-year-old will be attempting to continue that trend.
His win in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle on this card three years ago was his first Grade 1 victory. Winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season, Nichols Canyon will be making his first appearance since losing out narrowly to Unowhatimeanharry in another 3m Grade 1 at the Punchestown festival in April.
Mullins said on Saturday: "Nichols Canyon is in good form and ready to start another campaign. On official ratings he has to have a big chance but it will be a tough task taking on Apple's Jade, who has the benefit of a previous run this season."
Apple's Jade, who beat the Mullins-trained Vroum Vroum Mag by a short head in this event a year ago, made a successful reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last month and while Elliott reports her ready for today's task, he admits that Nichols Canyon will be a tough nut to crack.
"Apple's Jade is in good form and I think she has come forward from her Navan run. She's a stronger mare this season but it's probably a big ask against Nichols Canyon who is very good and very consistent," Elliott said.
HEAD TO HEAD
Weight 11st 3lb
Days since last run 21
Soft ground form 112
Grade 1 wins 5
Hurdles wins/places 12 runs, eight wins, four places
Fairyhouse form 1 run, 1 win
December form 1-1
2m4f form 1211-1
Cheltenham Festival odds (best price) Champion Hurdle 33-1, Mares' Hurdle 3-1, Stayers' Hurdle 14-1
Form under Jack Kennedy 2 runs, 1 win, 1 second
Weight 11st 10lb
Days since last run 220
Soft ground form 1-133-1
Grade 1 wins 8
Hurdles wins/places 18 runs, 9 wins, 7 places
Fairyhouse form 1 run, 1 win
December form U-1-2
2m4f form 11-3
Cheltenham Festival odds (best price) Stayers Hurdle 6-1
Form under Paul Townend 4 runs, 1 win, 3 thirds
Supasundae trip concerns
Supasundae, who won the Coral Cup at Cheltenham in March before running Yanworth to a length in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree, makes his reappearance in the seven-runner event and trainer Jessica Harrington is hoping for a good run, although she fears the trip might be inadequate for the seven-year-old.
She said: "Supasundae is in good form and ready to start back. The trip is shorter than ideal for him and we're just hoping he runs a good race and that he will come on for the run."
Cilaos Emery, a Grade 1 winner over two miles as a novice last season, and Augusta Kate, who won a Grade 1 mares' novice over today's course and distance in April, join Nichols Canyon in a three-strong challenge by champion trainer Willie Mullins, who last landed the prize with Arctic Fire two years ago.
Mullins said: "We decided to wait a season before sending Cilaos Emery over fences as he doesn't have a lot of racing experience. That lack of experience might tell against him in this sort of company. We'll see how he gets on before making plans for the rest of the season.
"While Augusta Kate has won over the course and trip, that was in a mares' only novice so this will be a much tougher assignment. She'll stay further but could finish in the money."
The versatile Swamp Fox is likely to be given a break by trainer Joe Murphy following today's big race. Winner of the Naas November Handicap on the Flat last month, Swamp Fox finished a remote third behind Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle on his most recent start.
Murphy said on Saturday: "He's in good form and while he looks up against it we're just hoping he might pick up some prize-money. We'll probably give him a break after tomorrow."
Big task for Mick
Third behind Melon at Down Royal on his most recent start last month, Mick Jazz appears to have plenty to do in this league and his trainer Gordon Elliott said on Saturday: "He's in good form but looks to have plenty to do. If he can sneak a bit of prize-money we'll be happy."
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