Nichols Canyon likely to keep ball rolling for Closutton team
Another bumper day can take Willie Mullins past €3.5M mark in prizemoney for record-breaking season
Nichols Canyon, ridden by Ruby Walsh, leads Parlour Games over the last fence in the The World Famous Just Eat Novices Hurdle Race at Aintree Racecourse last month. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images.
Nichols Canyon is one of four Mullins runners in a seven-strong field, a quartet among a 16-strong overall team of Closutton declarations that also includes no less than the Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen and a trio of hopefuls in the €100,000 novice handicap chase.
It is a team likely to take their trainer well past the €3.5 million mark in prizemoney for a record-breaking season that will see Mullins formally crowned champion for a ninth time tomorrow.
The strength of the Mullins team overall is that Nichols Canyon’s campaign has been comparatively overlooked but the ex-John Gosden runner has been a revelation over jumps.
Already possessed of three Grade One’s this term, a Christmas spill robbed him of another potential top-flight prize and he bounced back from a lacklustre third in Cheltenham’s Neptune to win impressively at Aintree three weeks ago.
It’s asking a lot to take in all three big festivals but it has been successfully done already this week and this doesn’t look the strongest of Grade One’s.
That Mullins runs Val de Ferbet off a mark of 151 and topweight in the EMS Chase is a tip in itself. The horse was ultra-impressive in his last start at Limerick and should be a major player despite the weight.
However Val de Ferbet does have to give a lot away to Mr Fiftyone whose Fairyhouse second to Ballyadam Approach got boosted on Wednesday and trainer Jessica Harrington has won this valuable pot three times in the last five years, including the last two.
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Trend-spotters will note how On The Fringe is one to avoid in the champion hunters considering he won this race in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Enda Bolger’s star is a career high though after faultless wins at Cheltenham and Aintree and can complete the festival hat-trick.
Dermot Weld’s Tandem can translate his flat quality to flights on better ground in a novice hurdle with a history of unveiling major talent.