Super six for Mullins as Nichols Canyon outpoints Jer's Girl
Stanjames.com Morgiana Hurdle (Grade 1) | 2m | 4yo+
Nichols Canyon gave Willie Mullins a sixth consecutive win in the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle when blowing away his four rivals by 12 lengths as he landed the 2m event for the second year in a row.
A year ago the six-year-old, who started 8-13 yesterday, had caused an upset when inflicting on the then reigning champion hurdler, Faugheen, the only defeat of his career.
Nichols Canyon's participation in yesterday's renewal was only confirmed after stablemates Annie Power, Faugheen and Vroum Vroum Mag were ruled out of the event due to minor hitches in their preparation for the race.
Mullins said: "You could say that Nichols Canyon was called off the bench when the other horses were ruled out as today's race hadn't been the plan for him but once again he's gone and shown just how good a horse he is. That was a very good effort considering he hadn't run since early May.
"The difference this year is that him winning today's race wasn't the surprise result it was last year when he beat Faugheen by half a length."
Bookmaker reaction to Nichols Canyon's runaway victory saw Ladbrokes cut him to 5-1 (from 8) for the World Hurdle for which Betfair and Paddy Power go 6-1 (from 8). BoyleSports left him unchanged at 6-1.
The seven-time Grade 1 winner is generally a 20-1 shot for the Champion Hurdle.
And Mullins, who won the race three times with Hurricane Fly and once with Thousand Stars, has no firm plans for yesterday's winner.
"He has won Grade 1s over two miles and two and a half miles and been placed in one over three miles, so he is very adaptable. When the ground is soft like it is today he is very effective over two miles, but I'd say we'll be stepping him back up in trip sooner rather than later," Mullins said.
Apparently Jer's Girl, a dual Grade 1 winner last season and having her first outing since April, attempted to take on the front-running favourite down the back straight but by the time visibility was restored to those in the stands, it was a one-horse race with Nichols Canyon and Ruby Walsh emerging from the fog with a clear lead before the final hurdle.
"His jumping, his fitness and his stamina were key elements in his win. The filly [Jer's Girl] wasn't able to stay with him," Mullins said.
Barry Geraghty, rider of Jer's Girl, and trainer Gavin Cromwell agreed the filly had got tired.
"She ran well for a long way and I'd be happy enough with her run, "Geraghty said.
Ivanovich Gorbatov, the Triumph Hurdle winner, was five lengths back in third place ahead of the winner's stablemates Sempre Medici and Simenon.