A scintillating Grade 1 which saw a shock winner last year when Nichols Canyon inflicted Faugheen with his first and only defeat. Five horses are set to go to post battling it out for the €85,000 prize pool.
1 Nichols Canyon – Rated 111 on the flat following a French Listed win over two miles. Won four Grade 1s in his Novice season and followed that up with two more, including his famous defeat of Faugheen. However, was soundly beaten in a rematch with Faugheen and was then found out by Annie Power twice. Returns from his summer break here and has shown he can go well fresh, plus has a good engine. Seems to be a better horse with more cut underground. With the going soft at Punchestown, he looks the one to be on in the absence of Faugheen and Annie Power.
2 Sempre Medici – Another excellent horse on the flat, has a rating of 150 over hurdles and has been well beaten by a number of the other Willie Mullins entries here. He is yet to achieve a Grade 1 win – although has won a weak Grade 2 – and, in reality, is outclassed by a number of other potential runners here.
3 Simenon – Ran 40 times on the flat, but could never quite win a Graded race, finishing second three times. Has won a Grade 3 over hurdles, but his other four wins have been in weak races over longer distances and would be a big outsider here if lining up. Was a distant last of four last time out over hurdles – that was over a three mile trip – but given he was a two miler on the flat, expect this trip will be too short for him.
4 Ivanovich Gorbatov – One of three four-year-olds in the field. Won the Triumph Hurdle in March and looked to have more in hand than the winning distance suggested. However, was soundly beaten by the runner up Apple’s Jade (declared here also) on two subsequent rematches, and started this season with a 25 length defeat by a horse rated 146. He didn’t look like his normal self that day, but that was just two weeks ago and is unlikely to win this.
5 Jer’s Girl – The third and final four-year-old in the field, trained by Gavin Cromwell in County Meath. She comfortably beat O O Seven at Punchestown on her final start last season – albeit getting a hefty amount of weight – and he impressed when winning comfortably at Cheltenham last weekend on his chasing debut. She gets 10lb from the older geldings and just 3lb from the older mares this time out and she wasn’t anywhere near the quality of a number of these on the flat. Her trainer said she should get three miles following her win last time out. While there is probably a big handicap or Graded mares race for her this season, she’ll be outpaced despite the weight allowance.
This race was won three times in a row by the impervious Hurricane Fly between 2012 and 2014, and Willie Mullins has taken it for the last five years. With seven declarations again this year, he’ll be expecting to make it six in a row.
The key trends for the Morgiana Hurdle are:
Trend Winners: Nichols Canyon
Trend Losers: Sempre Medici, Simenon, Ivanovich Gorbatov