Thousand Stars' hat-trick bid foiled as Gemix takes honours
THOUSAND STARS' bid to complete a hat-trick of victories in France's richest hurdles race ended in disappointment at Auteuil.
Willie Mullins' charge finished distressed as Gemix thwarted a six-strong Anglo-Irish challenge for the three-and-a-quarter-mile Grade One Grand Course des Haies.
The five-year-old, trained by Nicolas Bertran de Balanda, sprinted away from Cheltenham and Aintree staying champion Solwhit – from Charles Byrnes' yard – on the run-in to score by eight lengths. Zaidpour snatched third.
Earlier, Diakali made just about all the running to give the Mullins team a flying start to the day in the Prix Alain du Breil.
Ruby Walsh dictated affairs on the four-year-old, which had My Maj for company for part of the way and jumped the hurdles with aplomb as he controlled the Grade One contest from the front.
Challengers appeared on all sides with two left to jump but Diakali (2/1) found extra reserves to hold the bid of Paul Nicholls' Ptit Zig.
The French-trained 7/4 favourite Le Grand Luce was third, with Blue Fashion, having his first run since joining the Nicky Henderson stable, fourth.
Mullins' other entry, Blood Cotil, was a non-runner.
Walsh could not make it a quick double as he steered Seabass into sixth place behind the Philip Carberry-partnered Pibrac (16/1) in the Grade Two Prix des Drags.
The Ted Walsh-trained gelding, having his first race since the Aintree Grand National, was given every chance, but the 3/1 favourite could find no more from the second-last after Princesse Kap had made a lot of the running.
Pibrac led at the final obstacle and pulled away from the opposition to score by six lengths from Al Bucq.
This year's US Classic series concluded late on Saturday night with a different winner in each of the Triple Crown races as 14/1 shot Palace Malice took the final leg, the Belmont Stakes.
The colt, ridden by Mike Smith, came home three-and-a-quarter lengths in front of Oxbow, winner of the Preakness Stakes, with the Kentucky Derby hero Orb third.
Palace Malice had run 12th of 19 to Orb at Churchill Downs (where Oxbow came in sixth, one place ahead of Lines Of Battle), but on that occasion had blazed an unsustainably fast pace after being overgalvanised by first-time blinkers.
With the headgear left off in New York, he was still in the leading group throughout, but relaxed. And, slipstreaming Oxbow as that one went for home half a mile out, he had plenty in reserve as his stamina kicked in down the home straight.
Oxbow stayed on gamely to repel the 11/5 favourite Orb, which finished equally willingly from an impossibly long way off the pace, in front of the Godolphin contender Incognito.