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Thousand Stars

There is a chance that Thousand Stars has not received due recognition for the quality of the performance that he put up in finishing third behind Hurricane Fly and Solwhit in the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday. It wasn’t ideal for the Willie Mullins-trained gelding that he made the running. Actually, he was a front-runner when he raced on the flat in France, which may have been why, with no obvious pace angle to Sunday’s race, he was allowed stride on by Katie Walsh. The race was a better race for the pace that he set, it was run at a decent gallop and it enabled Thousand Stars’s stable companion further enhance his Champion Hurdle claims, but it probably disadvantaged the grey horse at least a little. That said, he still ran out of his skin. He led his more illustrious rivals almost to the final flight before he gave best, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which he rallied again after he had been passed, getting back to within two lengths of Solwhit at the line. Who knows, if Solwhit had led and Thousand Stars had sat in behind, he may have been able to do Charles Byrnes’s horse for second place.

The form book tells us that, actually, Thousand Stars is not that far behind Hurricane Fly and Solwhit. As well as this run, he got to within two lengths of them when the trio filled the first three places in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown last April, and he got to within four lengths of Hurricane Fly and two lengths of Solwhit on what was effectively his debut this term in the December Festival Hurdle. It is interesting that Willie Mullins had no hesitation after Sunday’s race in confirming that the Champion Hurdle as Thousand Stars’s target. The fact that he won the County Hurdle last March under the conditions that are unique to the Cheltenham Festival is hugely in his favour. He will be well suited to being held up off the fast pace that Overturn will surely set, he will appreciate the better ground and he obviously relishes the undulations and the final climb. There will be many worse 66/1 shots racing at the Festival in March.

23rd January 2011

© The Irish Field, 29th January 2011