Thousand Stars picked up £138,750 for winning French Champion HurdlePICTURE: Scoop-Dyga
Thousand Stars reigns supreme at Auteuil
Report: France, Sunday
Auteuil: Grande Course De Haies D'Auteuil (Hurdle) (Grade 1) 3m1½f, turf, 5yo+
THOUSAND STARS made it back-to-back victories in the French Champion Hurdle for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, taking things up after the last and powering clear up the Auteuil straight to register a convincing win.
Settled in mid-division, Walsh took his time through the early stages on the 15-8 favourite as first Tanais Du Chenet, and then more alarmingly Sleeping Mat, established big leads over the field.
Turning for home Sleeping Mat still had a decent advantage over the chasing pack, which had been whittled down to Nikita Du Berlais, Formosa Joana Has and the Mullins-trained trio of Zaidpour, Mourad and the eventual winner.
Jumping two out the pursuers began to close and Sleeping Mat had been caught before jumping the last. In the air at the same time, Nikita Du Berlais and Thousand Stars emerged as the main contenders for the Grade 1 contest, but just as last year, Thousand Stars asserted close home.
"He travelled well, he settled well, they went a good gallop unlike last year when they walked," said Walsh. "He jumped extremely well which he always seems to do round here and he picked up really well in the straight.
"My one concern was stamina because last year they went so slow stamina wasn't tested and he looked like he didn't stay at Cheltenham but he's seen it out really well. "
Nikita Du Berlais took second with Formosa Joana Has in third. Mourad was fourth, with Zaidpour fifth. Cape Tribulation, a first runner in France for Malcolm Jefferson, disappointed and was the last to finish.
Paddy Power reacted by going 16-1 about the winner for the 2013 World Hurdle back at Cheltenham. Sleeping Mat, who made most of the running, was put down after fracturing a hind leg jumping the last.
Also on Sunday
Auteuil: Prix Alain Du Breil (Hurdle) (Grade 1) 2m3½f, turf, 4yo
The raiding party were out of luck in the in the French Triumph Hurdle, with Walsh and Mullins faring best of the four runners from Ireland with Ut De Sivola, who finished fifth behind impressive winner Usual Suspects (Guy Cherel/Cyrille Gombeau).
The Tony Martin-trained Wingtips was sixth, with Dermot Weld's Hisaabaat the final finisher in ninth. Loch Ard, trained by Mullins, was pulled up.
Walsh said: "Ut De Sivola jumped a bit high early and was a little bit keen. That was the difference between being third and fifth.
"I wouldn't have won but if he'd been a bit slicker early and settled a bit better he'd have been a good third. But it was a cracking run for his first time in France."
Paul Carberry, jockey of Wingtips, added: "He was jumping a bit slow down the back. I thought I was going alright turning in but when we straightened up he just got a bit stuck in the ground, which is pretty dead."
Xavier Papot, co-owner of the winner Usual Suspects, said: "Guy has brought him on quietly and he just gets better and better. The big dilemma with this horse is that we think he’d be better over fences but we already had Saint Palois. It’s a nice problem to have. To win a Group 1 over hurdles with him is fantastic."
Auteuil: Prix des Drags (Group 2 chase) 2m6f, 5yo+
LAGUNAK (Yannick Fouin/Jeremy Da Silva) sprang a major shock in the traditional consolation race for the Grand Steeple-Chase, outbattling Kotkieglote to score at odds of 31-1.
"He jumped the biggest fences on the course really well and I think that made the difference," said Fouin. The same certainly can't be said of the two market prinicipals.
Rubi Ball ruined any chance he had by dragging his hind legs in the water jump in front of the stands and was pulled up by Christophe Pieux.
Net Lovely, one of five fallers at the big open ditch in the Grand Steeple-Chase, was notably slow over that obstacle on both occasions this time. The 2-1 favourite finished a never-dangerous seventh.