A joyous Ruby Walsh returns to the Winners’ Enclosure with Nichols’ Canyon
Nichols Canyon came from off the pace to register the eighth Grade One success of his career in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Completing a treble on the card for trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh, Nichols Canyon was produced with a strong run towards the rail to land the spoils for owner Graham Wylie.
It was only his second attempt at three miles, but the seven-year-old showed he had no problem getting the trip.
He was held up in the early stages as 2015 winner Cole Harden set a strong pace that had the field well strung out.
When he faded out of contention Lil Rockerfeller set sail for home, but Nichols Canyon (10-1) was produced to lead on the run-in and score by three-quarters of a length.
Unowhatimeanharry, the 5-6 favourite, was three and a half lengths away in third without ever looking like continuing his winning run.
Wylie was celebrating a fourth success in the race after three-time victor Inglis Drever, and he said: "When I told Willie to buy a horse for me, he rang me up and said 'I think I've found you the next Inglis Drever'.
"He looks like Inglis Drever as he's only a pony, but he flew up the hill. Ruby told me he'd ride him like that to make sure he got the trip.
"It wasn't until approaching the last I thought he might get placed, never mind win.
"With the problems with Faugheen and Annie Power we thought he'd be a Champion Hurdle horse, but it hasn't gone right.
"It's only been the last two weeks he's started to show anything, but this is great. Willie is a genius."
Walsh said: "He's a little warrior.
"He switched off, he jumped and we just crept away.
"Lil Rockerfeller was battling back at me but he kept going all the way to the line.
"He just started to come back to himself the last 10 days, Katie (Walsh) rode him at the Curragh the other day and said he worked very well.
"I'm delighted for Graham and Andrea (Wylie), this race means a lot to them."