Walsh opts for Thousand Stars


RACING AUTEUIL:THOUSAND STARS will attempt to become the first horse in over a decade to record back-to-back victories in the French Champion Hurdle when he lines up alongside his stable companions Zaidpour and Mourad at Auteuil tomorrow.

Ruby Walsh, who rode the Willie Mullins-trained grey to success in the €370,000 Grande Course De Haies d’Auteuil last year, is back on board again having deserted Thousand Stars for Zaidpour in a warm-up at the famous Paris track last month.

Thousand Stars impressively scored that day in the Prix La Barka and Paul Townend will team up with Zaidpour now with Katie Walsh on Mourad. The other overseas hope among the dozen-strong field is Malcolm Jefferson’s Cheltenham hero Cape Tribulation, the mount of Corkman Denis O’Regan.

“Thousand Stars is such a professional around there and he should run very well, but it’s not an easy race,” Mullins said yesterday. “I’m told two of the French fillies are very good, Nikita Du Berlais and Formosa Joana Has. They didn’t run in the trial, so maybe they’ll be hard to beat,” added Mullins.

The last horse to win back-to-back renewals of the three-mile and one-and-a-half-furlong event was La Sauvignon in 2000-01.

Tomorrow’s main Grade One support at Auteuil is the €270,000 Prix Alain Du Breil, the French equivalent of the Triumph Hurdle and a race won in 2005 by the Irish runner, Strangely Brown.

There is heavy Irish interest again this time with Dermot Weld’s Punchestown winner Hisaabaat, a dual Grade One victor last season, and runner-up in the Triumph, taking his place under Paul Townend.

Willie Mullins runs both Ut De Sivola and Loch Ard while Paul Carberry teams up with the Tony Martin trained Wingtips.

Today’s home action is at Navan where Aidan O’Brien and his son Joseph can continue their tremendous winning run with both Triumphant and Purple.

Triumphant lines up in the six-runner mile conditions race and while testing ground conditions will hardly be ideal, he did cope with them well enough when not beaten too far behind Takar in the Tetrarch Stakes at the Curragh.

Purple is aptly named in breeding terms being by Galileo out of the Moyglare winner Necklace but doesn’t appear to be anywhere near that level in terms of performance.

The O’Brien filly ran third over the course and distance of today’s 10-furlong handicap last month behind Kashmir Peak and has some ground to make up on the runner up Lord Jim.

However, the champion trainer’s willingness to let her have another go at Lord Jim, and the likelihood of continued progress on her third start of the season, looks significant.

Triple Crown aspirant I’ll Have Another will not run in the Belmont Stakes today. The Doug O’Neill-trained three-year-old was aiming for racing immortality after his victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but has been taken out of the mile-and-a-half contest in New York after reportedly suffering a leg injury.