Graham Wylie excited by Nichols Canyon’s attempt to reaffirm Champion Hurdle claims

Owner Graham Wylie is looking forward to making the trip to Leopardstown over Christmas to see if Nichols Canyon can reaffirm his Champion Hurdle claims in the Ryanair Hurdle.
Graham Wylie excited by Nichols Canyon’s attempt to reaffirm Champion Hurdle claims

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old struck four times at Grade One level during his novice campaign over hurdles last season and inflicted a shock defeat on previously unbeaten stable companion Faugheen on his return to action in last month’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

Wylie expects the pair to be kept apart until a potential rematch at Cheltenham in March and with Faugheen set to return to Kempton to defend his Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day, Nichols Canyon will head for Foxrock on December 29 for a race won four times by recently-retired former stablemate Hurricane Fly.

Wylie said: “It was a very nice surprise to see him do what he did at Punchestown.

“Willie told me during the summer we’d go down the Champion Hurdle route, but that we’d try to avoid Faugheen before hopefully meeting him at Cheltenham in March if all went well.

“When they were entered against each other I was surprised and Willie told me not to expect to beat Faugheen. I think he was as surprised as anyone that he did.

“I think the plan will be to go to Leopardstown and hopefully myself and Andrea (wife) will get over there for a few days over Christmas. It’s just really exciting to have what looks a live candidate for the Champion Hurdle. I’ve never had one before.”

The Wylies have enjoyed a strong start to the season in Ireland, with Bellshill and Up For Review both looking like major players in the novice hurdle division after making impressive starts to their jumping careers in November.

“Bellshill was very good at Cork and I was impressed with Up For Review at Fairyhouse as well, so it’s exciting times,” said Wylie.

“I’m sure we’ll learn more about them when they step up in grade.”

Meanwhile Oliver Sherwood is keen to see Grand National hero Many Clouds have two more runs before returning to Aintree in April following his fine effort in defeat at the Merseyside circuit on Saturday.

The Trevor Hemmings-owned eight-year-old finished a well-beaten sixth on his seasonal reappearance and first start since the National in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, but upped his game on his return to Aintree to fill the runner-up spot behind last season’s RSA Chase winner Don Poli.

Sherwood has not yet firmed up plans for his stable star, but confirmed he will not be in action over the Festive period.

“He’s come out of the race absolutely A1. He went out in the paddock on Sunday and I’m very happy that we’re back on schedule,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

“I haven’t had chance to have a chat with Mick (Meagher, owner’s racing manager) about a plan yet, but he won’t run anywhere over Christmas. We’ll be looking from the New Year onwards.

“The Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January could be on the agenda again, there’s the Denman Chase at Newbury and there’s also a conditions race up at Kelso that could be a possibility.

“I’d like him to have another two runs before the National.”

Sherwood also had news of Tim Syder-owned pair Deputy Dan and Puffin Billy.

After failing to complete twice in succession over fences, Deputy Dan returned to the smaller obstacles for last month’s Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and ran a fine race to finish second.

Puffin Billy has not been seen in competitive action so far this season after suffering a setback.

Sherwood said: “Deputy Dan is very well and we’re looking at the Long Walk at Ascot (December 19).

“If the ground went good, we might have a rethink. He would want the ground to be soft.

“Puffin Billy is just back in light work and won’t run until after the New Year. I haven’t got any plans for him at the moment, I just want to keep him sound.”

  • Nicky Henderson is awaiting further expert opinion on the splint problem currently afflicting Simonsig.

The nine-year-old was a hot favourite for last Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown but he was pulled out of the race the day before after suffering a setback.

Henderson confirmed Simonsig’s lameness is due to a splint, an issue which kept him on the sidelines for the 2013/14 season, but reports it to be unrelated to his previous injury.

He said: “We have taken X-rays this evening and they will now go off to be looked at and then the boffins will decide what we need to do.

“We know it’s a splint and while he has had problems with this before – it caused him to miss quite a lot of time two years ago – it is on completely the opposite leg this time.

“It’s not an uncommon problem in horses, but this doesn’t seem to be related to his previous issues.

“Horses can have splints and it doesn’t cause any problems, but unfortunately this flared up for him on Friday. He’s sore on it and we will have to see what the experts say, I couldn’t tell you how long it’s going to be at this stage.”

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