USA: Nichols Canyon, winner of the G1 Sun Bet Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival in March for owners Andrea & Graham Wylie, trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh, is lined up for an American challenge which involves a US$500,000 bonus.
The TVV Capital Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge US$500,000 bonus is won if the victor of the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle goes on to land the G1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes in the USA on Saturday 13th May, or vice versa within 12 months.
In November, 2015, officials from the Iroquois Steeplechase Raceday, staged near Nashville, Tennessee, USA, and Britain’s Cheltenham Racecourse announced a US$500,000 bonus for any horse who could win both the US$200,000 G1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle and the £300,000 G1 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle within a year.
This will be the second time that seven-year-old Nichols Canyon has raced in the Iroquois Hurdle at Percy Warner Park, Nashville.
Stable companion Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon made the trip in 2016 and finished second and third to US star hurdler Rawnaq, whose own Cheltenham bid this year was thwarted through injury.
Nichols Canyon has since bloomed as a formidable force over three miles and just failed by a head to catch Unowhatimeanharry on his most recent start, the G1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, at Punchestown, Ireland on 27th April.
Willie Mullins, Ireland’s champion Jump trainer, commented: “The intention is for Nichols Canyon to go for the Iroquois.
“He seems fine after his run at Punchestown on Thursday and plans are fairly advanced for taking him out to America – we’ll just give him a quiet few days at home. I imagine Ruby would ride.
“It was a good experience last year and they had a lot of water on the track so we are happy enough to travel back again.
“The prize money is good but we are in line for the bonus so it would make the trip even better if we could win that!”