Mullins optimistic Thousand can star again at Auteuil

Trainer Willie Mullins is optimistic Thousand Stars can successfully defend his crown in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil on Sunday.

The eight-year-old grabbed his first Grade One prize in this extended three-mile-one-furlong contest 12 months ago and returns at the top of his game having won last month’s recognised trial, the Prix La Barka.

Stable companion Zaidpour finished well to take second spot in that Grade Two affair, and renews rivalry.

Ruby Walsh has switched from Zaidpour to Thousand Stars, with Paul Townend going in the other direction.

Katie Walsh takes the ride on Mullins’ third runner, Mourad.

“All of them are in good order and hopefully Thousand Stars and Zaidpour will run the same race as they did the last day,” said Mullins.

“It was Zaidpour’s first run in France last time, so you’d like to think he’d have learnt from it and hopefully the longer trip can bring out a bit of improvement in him.

“I probably would be surprised if Zaidpour beat Thousand Stars, though.

“I don’t think Zaidpour showed himself off the last day and hopefully he’ll do it this time.

“Thousand Stars is such a professional around there and he should run very well, but it’s not an easy race. 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 we ran in to be kept fresh for this, so maybe they’ll be hard to beat.

“Mourad is an outsider. He got place money last year and I suppose that is the best we can hope for again.”

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