ANOTHER Cheltenham Festival novice hurdle and another Willie Mullins-trained favourite. Nichols Canyon is a warm order to land this afternoon’s opening Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm) and follow in the hoofprints of Douvan, yesterday’s hugely impressive Sky Bet Supreme Novices winner.
The five-year-old son of Authorized looked very good when quickening up smartly from the front in the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown last month. Connections feel he’ll shine even brighter over this trip.
My reservations surround the fact that not only is he unproven at Cheltenham, the ground will certainly be far livelier than he’d prefer. When campaigned on the flat by John Gosden, he was always seen in a far better light with plenty of cut in the ground.
It also worries me that he has never won a race on the flat or over hurdles with the word ‘good’ in the going description. He could be one to oppose on the Sporting Index win index.
The Mullins team are also represented by the Bryan Cooper-ridden Outlander, who won a Grade Two impressively in January.
However, there is something a little bit unsatisfactory about that race and I’m pretty sure that the speedy Windsor Park, who finished third that day, will reverse the form if ridden more positively.
AP McCoy has been booked to ride John Ferguson’s Parlour Games, who has done nothing wrong all season. He ran out a game winner of the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on his latest start and is a previous course winner. He was a smart performer on the flat and also won’t mind the drying ground.
In fact, the only thing that puts me off Parlour Games is his price. He was 8/1 a few days ago and is now as short as 4/1 in places. With that man McCoy in the saddle, he is unlikely to trade any bigger.
Parlour Games was only a neck in front of VYTA DU ROC in the Challow Hurdle, yet Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old is available at double the price to repeat his handler’s 2012 success with Simonsig.
He has apparently been working the house down at Seven Barrows in recent weeks and is the value call at the prices.
VYTA DU ROC e/w 1.30pm Cheltenham