Leopardstown preview: Ryanair Hurdle (14.30)
David Metcalf | December 29, 2015
Nichols Canyon can confirm himself a leading contender for the 2016 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival by landing the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle on today’s card at Leopardstown (14.30).
The Willie Mullins trained gelding developed into a top class novice last season when winning five of his seven starts, and four of those successes came in Grade 1 company.
Nichols Canyon looked the type who would have plenty more to offer this season and needed keeping firmly onside, and that view was confirmed when he lowered the colours of the mighty Faugheen on return to action in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month.
The five-year-old made all, and despite being far from fluent at the last ran on tenaciously to score by 1/2 a length.
There was no fluke about the success, and the runner-up has since gone on to bolt up in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
That gives the form a rock solid look, and a repeat of that effort is going to make Nichols Canyon very hard to beat.
Nichols Canyon must beware an Identity Thief
Should Nichols Canyon, who is currently 5/1 second favourite with Coral for the Champion Hurdle, fail to live up to expectations then Identity Thief looks the obvious one to take advantage.
The Henry de Bromhead trained five-year-old has always been held in high regard and comes into the contest on the back of a career-best effort when landing the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
Identity Thief showed a tremendous attitude to rally after a mistake at the last to get up close home and beat Top Notch by a neck.
The pair pulled 10 lengths clear of the useful Wicklow Brave, and it was a performance which suggested Identity Thief was on a serious upward curve and may well have even more to offer.
This demands more, but Identity Thief is officially rated just 2lb lower than Nichols Canyon and looks sure to give the jolly plenty to think about.
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Coral’s top tip: Nichols Canyon is the only horse to have beaten Faugheen, so rates a rock solid bet to land the Ryanair spoils. Identity Thief can chase him home.