Thousand Stars: was bagging his second victory at AuteuilPICTURE: APRH
Thousand Stars leads home Mullins one-two
Report: France, Sunday
Auteuil: Gras Savoye Hipcover Prix La Barka (Group 2 hurdle) 2m5½f, 5yo+
THOUSAND STARS (Willie Mullins/Paul Townend) went one better than in this event last year to add to his success in the French Champion Hurdle nearly 12 months ago as the grey finished best to record his second win at Auteuil.
In a race Mullins has been trying hard to win for many years, the Irish champion trainer finally got his just rewards and it was a perfect result from his five runners with Zaidpour running on to take second spot and provide the yard with a fabulous one-two.
Victory for Mullins had looked unlikely through most of the race, especially when the mare Tanais Du Chenet made what looked a decisive move for home, but they had gone a good pace in what looked pretty testing conditions and, as stamina kicked in, Townend was close enougth on Thousand Stars to strike and bag the first prize of €81,209.
"He's an iron horse," said the winning trainer. "He's been to every festival, Aintree, Cheltenham and Punchestown, and we haven't missed a beat with him."
Zaidpour had looked well beaten at one stage, but he looked a real stayer in finishing best of all and the extra half mile would be in his favour if he takes his chance in the French Champion Hurdle (Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil) next month. Both the first two home were later confirmed for the Group 1 in three weeks time.
"Both will come back [for the French Champion Hurdle]," said Mullins. "I think Zaidpour will have learned a lot today, the experience is huge for him."
Mullins other three runners, Mourad, Mikael D'Haguenet and Quel Esprit, were all well beaten, as was Five Dream - a rare Gaelic raider for Paul Nicholls.
Raiders from the British Isles have had to play second fiddle to the home team in this particular race - the notable trial for the Champion Hurdle - and Thousand Stars was following in the footsteps of French Holly and Dawn Run, who both won this quite a few years back.