Horse racing is a sport full of ups and downs, which we were sadly reminded of on Thursday afternoon as the tough and classy NICHOLS CANYON unfortunately passed away at Leopardstown. One of the leading lights of the Willie Mullins yard, he was the winner of no less than eight Grade 1 races, having his day in the sun at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival where he won the Stayers’ Hurdle. Although small in stature, the seven year old son of Authorized was as tough as nails and gave his heart and soul for his connections. It’s remarkable to look over his record to see how consistent he was at the top level over so many seasons, rarely running a bad race for Graham and Andrea Wylie.
Our thoughts are of course firmly with all those involved with him, including trainer Willie Mullins and owners Graham and Andrea Wylie. We hope we can do this fantastic horse justice by going through all his major victories, to showcase just how magnificent he truly was.
Mersey Novices Hurdle (Aintree, April 2015)
Nichols Canyon arrived here already having won two Grade 1 contests, so it was no surprise that he cleared away to win very easily ahead of some useful rivals. It was obvious at this point that Mullins had another smart one on his hands and the best was yet to come.
Champion Novice Hurdle (Punchestown, May 2015)
After his demolition job at Aintree, he gained another Grade 1 success in the form of the Champion Novice Hurdle. He made some smart horses including Alpha Des Obeaux and Outlander look simply ordinary by skipping clear late on, showcasing his brilliant attitude to racing.
Ryanair Hurdle (Leopardstown, December 2015)
This wasn’t one of his more simple victories but it showed just how tough he really was, looking on the back foot when making a bad mistake two out. When ridden he gave everything he had to get back up in the final 100 yards, showing his class to assert close home.
Morgiana Hurdle (Punchestown, November 2015 and November 2016)
Perhaps the most famous of his victories was his 2015 Morgiana Hurdle win, where he downed the 1/6 favourite Faugheen in incredible fashion. Making all, he jumped supremely after a first flight error and showcased his gritty and determined attitude to knuckle down gamely when pressed. If you want a race that shows you just what Nichols Canyon was about, this is the one, because all of his fantastic attributes were on display. His 2016 victory was much easier, always in command and sprinting clear when given an inch of reign by his regular rider Ruby Walsh.
(Video Credit to At The Races)
Stayers’ Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival, March 2017)
Although there were doubts about his stamina, Nichols Canyon simply shrugged them off when landing the biggest victory of his career in the form of the 2017 Stayers’ Hurdle. He could always be spotted travelling supremely well in the rear, making his move between the final two hurdles were he surged into contention along the stands rail. Jumping alongside at the last, he showed all his heart and determination to poke his head in front of Lil Rockerfeller to land the Championship Contest.
Other Grade 1 victories –
Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (2015)
Deloitte Novice Hurdle (2015)
By Owen Goulding