Graham Wylie looking forward to seeing Nichols Canyon step back up in trip

Owner Graham Wylie is looking forward to seeing Nichols Canyon step back up in trip in next month’s Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle.

Graham Wylie looking forward to seeing Nichols Canyon step back up in trip

The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old struck gold over two and a half miles at both Aintree and Punchestown last spring, but after claiming a shock victory over stable companion Faugheen on his seasonal reappearance in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, he has been campaigned with a tilt at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in mind.

Another victory at Leopardstown over Christmas kept the show on the road and while he was no match for Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January, he bounced back to his best to finish third behind another stablemate in the brilliant mare Annie Power at Prestbury Park a week ago.

Wylie feels the time is right to go back up in distance and hopes in 12 months time he will have established himself as a realistic contender for the World Hurdle, a race the owner won three times with the hugely popular Inglis Drever.

“The best thing about the Champion Hurdle was I got my horse back, because I honestly thought that after his race at Christmas and his race in the Irish Champion Hurdle, we might have bottomed him,” said Wylie.

“If he’d come last or second-last I might have thought that was the horse done forever, but the way he ran and the way he battled towards the end was more pleasing than anything.

“We didn’t run him over a longer distance as we didn’t think he’d settle very well, but this season, as he’s got bigger and stronger, he seems to settle better.

“His next trip could be the two-and-a-half-mile Aintree Hurdle and then we might try him in the three-mile race at Punchestown (Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle).

“Whether Annie (Power) goes to Aintree or not, I don’t know, but I just want to see what he (Nichols Canyon) is like at a further trip as I would love to see him go three miles and try and challenge for the World Hurdle next year.”

While out of luck with Nichols Canyon, Wylie still enjoyed three Cheltenham Festival winners, with Yorkhill particularly impressive in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.

In the immediate aftermath of that scintillating victory over the Alan King-trained Yanworth, connections were in a quandary over whether to to target the Champion Hurdle next season or pursue a career over fences, but almost a week later, the latter looks like the favoured route.

Wylie said: “The bookies made it a two-horse race and that’s the way it ended up. I was feeling fairly confident halfway through the race as it looked like Ruby (Walsh) had a double-handful. I knew he was going to run a big race.

“I wasn’t sure if he would beat Yanworth, as he was touted as something special, but the form he showed and the way he won was tremendous to watch.

“Whether he goes to Aintree or not, I don’t know, that’s up to Willie.

“I think he’ll go to Punchestown and what he does next season, I’m not sure, but the way we’re talking it sounds like he might go novice chasing.

“Ruby said he will win the Arkle with his mouth open, which I presume means easily. He’ll also be entered in the JLT and the RSA and if he is what we potentially think he is - a Gold Cup horse - we might just try him at a longer trip.”

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