Niall Cronin: Grand stuff from Canyon
Expect Mullins to double up in the Champion Hurdle trials
Hurricane Fly was so often the standing dish of Christmas at Leopardstown and although it was inevitable that he couldn't go on forever, he will be missed from the feature race on the concluding day at the Dublin track tomorrow afternoon.
However, there is a new generation on the scene and after Faugheen went to Kempton on St Stephen's Day and proved that there isn't a Champion Hurdle horse to be found in England, Nichols Canyon is expected to further emphasise just how strong a hold that Willie Mullins has on the two-mile hurdling division.
Ask the question of racing followers if Nichols Canyon's defeat of Faugheen was an early season upset or a true running and most will tell you that it was a once-off and would expect Faugheen to win any further meetings.
It certainly appeared that the Faugheen we saw on Saturday resembled the one we saw at Cheltenham last March rather than at Punchestown last month, but whatever way you look at it, the five-time Grade One winner that we'll see at Leopardstown tomorrow did beat Faugheen on his first run out of novice company and that is enough to be very confident that he is one of the best bets of the week.
The field is small, but is intriguing all the same. Henry De Bromhead's Identity Thief is another who is on an upward curve and again you could say has done little wrong and stepped up to Grade One level for the first time in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and won but the calibre of opposition here is up another couple of notches and we'll have to wait and see how he handles that jump up.
Dermot Weld's Windsor Park is another taking a jump up in class but his last run over hurdles was a successful one at the Cheltenham Festival when he won the Neptune Novices' Hurdle and nothing that leaves Weld's yard can be ignored. This is a race that revolves around Nichols Canyon, though, and he is the one picked to give Willie Mullins a fifth win in this race.
Gordon Elliott was out of luck with Don Cossack in the King George at Kempton on Saturday and the debate continues over whether he'd have outstayed Cue Card or not but staying will have to be a strong point for whatever horse comes out on top of tomorrow's Grade One Neville Hotel's Novice Chase and the form points to Elliott's No More Heroes.
We will not see a better performance from a novice chaser this side of Cheltenham than we did from Douvan here on Saturday, but No More Heroes has ticked the boxes on his two chase outings this season and should maintain his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles by franking the Drinmore Novice Chase form with Monksland.
No More Heroes was third at the Cheltenham Festival in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle over a gruelling three miles and didn't land a blow at the Punchestown Festival but that run could be ignored coming at the end of the season.
The trip shouldn't be a problem and he looks the pick of Michael O'Leary's staying novice chasers so expect plenty of Cheltenham Festival quotes for him after victory tomorrow.
Douvan maintained his unbeaten record on Saturday and tomorrow is the turn of Morning Run to keep up the winning sequence as she heads the field in the Willis EBF Mares Hurdle.
We haven't seen the six-year-old in competitive action in almost a year and her stable companion Whiteout is likely to be the biggest challenger, but Morning Run is picked to defy her lay-off and oblige once again.
Elsewhere, Court Frontier can score on his return over fences for the in form Alan Fleming and Squouateur can take the novice handicap hurdle.