Nichols is lucky 13 for Mullins

FRIDAY, MAY 1, 2015


Trainer Willie Mullins equalled his record of 13 wins at the Punchestown Festival, set in 2013, when Nichols Canyon (4/5 favourite) enjoyed a fourth Grade 1 victory in the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles.

Ruby Walsh’s mount finished seven lengths clear of Alpha Des Obeaux (9/2) and Mullins expects the winner to meet stablemate Faugheen next season.

“To do what he did there puts him in the Champion Hurdle picture for next year,” said Mullins. “He’s now won four Grade 1s as a novice. It’s a fair feat and I can’t think of many that have done that.

“He went a good pace, Alpha des Obeaux set about him about four or five furlongs out, I thought mine might get tired but he opened up again. It was a fantastic performance.

“He was bought as a Flat horse to go hurdling and doesn’t have the frame of a chaser. We thought he might be a stayer but he runs very free so he will be more of a two to two and a half mile horse.”

Ruby Walsh added: “Nichols Canyon is an iron little horse. He has had seven starts this season. He won a maiden and has run in six Grade 1s, winning four of them. I gave him a balls of ride in Cheltenham. I should not have dropped him in because he is a stayer. He gallops and jumps and has some constitution.

“The mistake three out was my fault. I didn’t want to dip him and didn’t want to lose any ground with Bryan [Cooper] on my outside and I probably squeezed him a bit long. He got there though.”

Owner Graham Wylie has enjoyed an excellent week and added: “What a tough little horse Nichols Canyon is. That was his seventh run this season and he has been in six Grade 1s and won four of them. When you were looking at him in the pre-parade ring he looks small, under-nourished and doesn’t walk very well but boy has he got some engine.

“He is getting better as Ruby said and is jumping well now. He went out in front and they just couldn’t catch him.

“I was talking to Willie on Wednesday, and he said we might go down the Champion Hurdle route and take on Faugheen – that will be interesting. Then again, he might go for the World Hurdle – we thought we might go for that race with Shaneshill but he doesn’t get the trip.

“It will be a summer break for Nichols Canyon now and we will come back next season and take it from there. The Aintree Hurdle could also be an option. He has plenty of stamina and is so tough, I am just delighted we could go either route. Willie is with the horse every day and I will bow to his judgment.

“This has to be one of my best weeks ever as we’ve had a winner every day, three of them Grade 1 which I have never had before. What a fantastic week.”

Nicky Henderson has saddled a winner at eight of the previous 10 Punchestown Festivals and he got on the scoresheet for 2015 when Snake Eyes (9/2) captured the Star Best For Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle. It was a second British-trained success of the week.

“He was balloted out at Cheltenham then he had a boil on his back at Aintree and we couldn’t get a saddle on him,” said Henderson.

“He is not at the top of the novice hurdlers but deserved to win a race like that. J P (McManus, the owner) is here and it is a nice prize.

“He ran in a bumper at Fairyhouse three years ago and has just struggled to get his brain into gear and understand life a bit. We have had to look after him a fair bit. He is what he is and today was a great day for him to win a nice race.

“Chasing could be on the agenda. He jumped very slickly today although he looked like he was going a bit left. Mark (Walsh) gave him lovely ride. A P (McCoy) told him to hold on for as long as you dare! I thought he wanted two and a half miles but the strong gallop helped him. He loved the ground. To be fair, the race played to his strengths and he has done the job.

“Willie (Mullins) gave us a good pasting at Cheltenham and we’ve come over here a little bit under-armed this week. We haven’t got a Sprinter Sacre this time. We love bringing horses here and it’s great to have a winner.

“I love coming here, it’s great prize money, great ground and we get so well looked after. We have a lot of owners who enjoy coming over.”

Jockey Mark Walsh added: “Ruby and Willie can’t have it all their own way! A strong run two-mile suited Snake Eyes. He jumped brilliantly – he still went a bit left but winged the hurdles. I wanted a lead for longer but there was no point stopping him going to the last and I rode on. In fairness, he galloped all the way to the line.”

The Stuart Crawford-trained Now Let Go (20/1) picked up a valuable prize when landing the €50,000 ITBA Fillies Scheme Premier Bumper.

“She had a good run at Navan against geldings and we then found an easy opportunity for her at Carlisle,” said Crawford. “The ground was as quick as she’d want today and she has a great stride to her. I told Steven (Clements) to sit in the first half dozen and to take it from there and she was maybe a bit keen early on. That’s it for now and she’ll go hurdling next season.”

The concluding Racing Post Champion Hunters Chase went to 4/11 favourite On The Fringe (Enda Bolger/Nina Carberry). This was the 10-year-old’s third major hunter chase victory of the season following wins at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.


Today’s attendance was 28,398, up from 26,282 in 2014. The cumulative attendance is so far up 5,280 on last year.

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