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Express team praying hard for soft ground in Derby

Connections of Dunboyne Express are praying for soft conditions at the Curragh for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Sunday.

The Shamardal colt, trained by Kevin Prendergast, disappointed on good to firm in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Co Kildare track when he was only fifth behind Roderic O'Connor.

Dunboyne Express has also yet to prove he stays as he has yet to run beyond a mile.

"We were disappointed with him in the Irish Guineas," the colt's regular jockey, Declan McDonogh, said.

"The main reason for it, we think, was because of the ground.

"It was pretty firm on the day and he possibly doesn't act on it. If he stays and it rains he could run into the money.

"There's no point saying he's going to be in the first three.

"We are going into the unknown a little, but he does handle soft ground if it turned out that way.

"He's in great form. I worked him on Tuesday morning on the grass.

"It was on the easy side and he felt great and handled it very well."

Thousand Stars is set to remain over hurdles after he gained a richly-deserved Grade One victory in Saturday's French Champion Hurdle.

The seven-year-old grey ran a number of excellent races in defeat during the last National Hunt season, finishing not too far behind illustrious stablemate Hurricane Fly at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

He was also beaten just a neck by Oscar Whisky at Aintree's Grand National meeting.


Thousand Stars finally enjoyed his day in the sun when he produced a superb display at Auteuil at the weekend.

Although a novice chase campaign had been considered, he could now challenge Big Buck's in the staying hurdle division.

"He deserved it and it was a terrific performance from him on the day," said trainer Willie Mullins. "His form has stood up all season and it was great to go and see him win a Grade One -- and get the trip so well.

"I think we're edging towards him staying hurdling next season now."

Mullins also saddled the fourth and fifth home, with Mourad just finishing ahead of his younger stablemate Final Approach, winner of the County Hurdle.

"Mourad ran well but probably would have been suited by better ground and a better pace. He'll be staying hurdling next season as well," the champion trainer added. "I thought Final Approach ran a very good race for a five-year-old and we've yet to make a decision on him for next season."