Thousand Stars to take centre stage
Thousand Stars bids to make his first appearance at Navan today a winning one when he lines up in the Grade Two Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle. photograph: morgan treacy/inpho
Circumstances have conspired to produce a sterling midweek Navan fixture today that should allow the admirable Thousand Stars a rare visit to centre-stage. A card containing four Grade Two races is rare enough, but with Navan forced to postpone 48 hours due to water-logging, it is a rare Tuesday beano to punters searching for possible Cheltenham clues.
With only three weeks to the start of the festival, there will be plenty interest in the likes of Tofino Bay who holds entries in the RSA, the Jewson and the four-miler at Cheltenham, as well as the Ryanair hope Rubi Light who is chasing a three-in-a-row in the Red Mills Chase.
But the significance of today’s card will also extend to Liverpool. One of Willie Mullins’s Grand National favourites, On His Own, returns to action in the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle, but will have to compete for attention with stable companion Thousand Stars.
Usually it is Thousand Stars who gets overlooked. Nine times he has clashed with his illustrious stablemate Hurricane Fly and come up short every time. It was the Irish Champion Hurdle on the last occasion, but this is an exceptional horse in his own right. Back-to-back wins in the French Champion Hurdle are among 10 career victories from 56 starts that leave Thousand Stars just short of the €900,000 mark in earnings.
But the class that has seen him finish fourth in a Champion Hurdle, and land a County Hurdle in 2010 among other notable wins, is augmented by unusual toughness. This is horse that ran 20 times in his native France, winning as a two-year-old, before starting a new career in Ireland. Yet the fact his greatest successes have come in France maybe leave him a little underappreciated.
Even his owners, the Hammer and Trowel Syndicate have a more popular runner in Quevega! But today’s big hurdle looks an ideal opportunity for Thousand Stars to win en route to what Mullins has indicated will be his major objective in the Aintree Hurdle, skipping Cheltenham in the process.
The Irish Form Book Ten Up Chase has proved highly informative in the last couple of years with Lion Na Bearnai and Quito De La Roque winning it en route to better things. Just four line up in what will be a gruelling three-mile test on heavy ground but Tofino Bay operates better than most on such conditions as he proved when landing the Troytown here back in November. Since then he came up short at Grade One level before outstaying Aupcharlie at Naas.
Gigginstown run Dedigout in the two-mile Flyingbolt which is unlikely to be enough of a stamina test for such a dour-stayer.
Willie Mullins has in the past questioned the heights Twinlight might reach over fences but the Arkle and Jewson entry has already reached Grade Two level and seems to have his own effective way of negotiating fences. The form of his defeats of Baily Green and Argocat looks strong enough to overcome a three-month absence this afternoon.
Andrew Lynch is back on Rubi Light for the first time this season and on the back of a fine Christmas second to Sizing Europe, Rob Hennessy’s star can complete a €40,000 Red Mills hat-trick. “He really shook Sizing Europe up over a trip short of his best and he has been unbeaten this season,” he added. “I’d love to see him go and win well and then we can head to the Ryanair full of confidence,” said Hennessy yesterday.