O’Brien chooses Cheltenham for Colin’s Sister to follow up Wetherby winner

A triumphant Colin's Sister returns to the winner's enclosure after winning Wetherby's West Yorkshire Hurdle.
A triumphant Colin's Sister returns to the winner's enclosure after winning Wetherby's West Yorkshire Hurdle.
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WETHERBY winner Colin’s Sister is set to reappear on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham.

Trainer Fergal O’Brien has identified the Relkeel Hurdle for the Paddy Brennan-ridden mare, who followed up last month’s success in the West Yorkshire Hurdle by finishing fourth at Newbury.

Nichols Canyon (left) and jockey Ruby Walsh on their way to victory in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Picture: David Davies/PA

Nichols Canyon (left) and jockey Ruby Walsh on their way to victory in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Picture: David Davies/PA

“Colin’s Sister is in good old form and, provided the ground remains testing, we will take our chance,” said O’Brien.

“I am not worried about the drop back in distance. Paddy (Brennan) was quite patient on her at Wetherby and Newbury, but over this trip on softer ground he will be able to ride her like he did at Sandown and Haydock last season when she won well.

“The nice thing this time is that she gets quite a bit of weight from some of the others and I think that will be important.”

Colin’s Sister’s opponents may include course winner Old Guard, who has won twice already this season for former champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

The nice thing this time is that she gets quite a bit of weight from some of the others and I think that will be important.

Trainer Fergal O’Brien

Yet, while the Relkeel race is often a stepping stone to the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, this three-mile division – already wide open – will be bereft of reigning champion Nichols Canyon.

Owned by Graham and Andrea Wylie, the Willie Mullins-trained horse suffered a fatal injury at Leopardstown yesterday when coming to grief at the fifth flight in the Christmas Hurdle.

Nichols Canyon, the only horse to have beaten stablemate and former Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen, had eight Grade One wins to his name, including this year’s Stayers Hurdle when he was ridden by Ruby Walsh, who is currently on the injury sidelines.

“It’s terrible. He had some wonderful days in Cheltenham, great days here, Fairyhouse, Punchestown – he was a wonderful little horse, a real character,” said crestfallen Walsh. “He tried his best every day and it’s desperately sad for the yard and the Wylies.

“He was a hardy little horse and he was brave, he took the odd chance, but don’t most of us?”