Nichols Canyon Can Pinch Morgiana Place

Sunday’s Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown (2.15) has attracted another mouth-watering line-up, which will no doubt whet the appetite of punters.

Favourite Faugheen
Lining-up for his much anticipated reappearance is Willie Mullins’ Faugheen, who remains unbeaten over timber having signed off last season with a fifth Grade 1 victory over Sunday’s C&D. That victory followed his first Champion Hurdle win six weeks earlier, when showing what a high-class hurdler he’d become, and a repeat of those last two efforts will make him hard to beat at the weekend.

Canyon Could Find Creeks
But, this will be his first outing in 198 days, and there may be some backers looking for each-way value against the odds-on favourite, which may come in the guise of stablemate, Nichols Canyon.

Mullins’ 5yo is also climbing the hurdling ranks, having notched a third Grade 1 in four outings at Punchestown when last seen in May (2m4f, yielding). Having won over the same trip at Aintree weeks earlier, there is a suspicion that 2m on his return this Sunday may catch him out, but any forecast rain may work in his favour in terms of stamina.

The fact Nichols Canyon also ran here at Punchestown last time has proven a good omen in recent years.

Morgiana Hurdle Trends
Of the last 10 winners…
10 winners raced twice or more at Punchestown
10 were officially rated 150 or higher
8 finished in the top two last time
8 made their seasonal reappearance
7 ran at Punchestown last time
W Mullins won it 4 times, N Meade and C Byrnes twice

Brave Back To Hurdles
With the above trends highlighting horses rated 150 as the ones to consider, Mullins’ third runner, Wicklow Brave, has to enter calculations having won last season’s Grade 3 County Hurdle at Cheltenham (2m1f). While this represents a step up in class, Wicklow Brave has been kept busy on the Flat (third in a Group 1 during the autumn) and will certainly have a fitness advantage.

Also rated in the 150s is last year’s Galway Hurdle winner Thomas Edison, although he has a bit more to prove despite finishing 3l third in a Grade 2 class last month.

Aidan O’Brien’s Plinth also has a bit to prove having fallen last weekend. A Grade 2 winner a month earlier (2m, good), he has ability, but may be winning again when dropped in class.

Recommended Bets:
It’s hard to see beyond Faugheen, though with six going to post, the each-way punt could be Nichols Canyon, especially if any rain makes this a stamina test.