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Solwhit to strive for honours in French

CHELTENHAM and Aintree hero Solwhit will sign off an incredible campaign in Auteuil on Sunday as Charles Byrnes' stable star takes on last year's winner Thousand Stars and last month's Auteuil winner Celestial Halo in the French Champion Hurdle.

Byrnes' Solwhit returned from injury to win the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and followed that up with a another Grade One success at Aintree in the Liverpool Hurdle just a few weeks later.



Solwhit was set to try and emulate only Istabraq and Sprinter Sacre by winning Grade Ones at the three big festivals until he was withdrawn at the start in the World Hurdle at Punchestown due to a trace of blood being found on his nostril.

The Limerick trainer quickly revealed afterwards that the subsequent scope found that Solwhit hadn't burst a blood vessel as first feared and he is now set to go in search of a third Grade One of the season.

Despite being sent off the well -fancied favourite for the Prix La Barka last month, Thousand Stars never looked like winning and was never closer than at the finish when finishing eight-and-a-quarter lengths behind Celestial Halo back in fourth.

Willie Mullins' three-time Auteuil winner was doing his best work at the end of that 2m6f contest and the step up in trip is sure to bring about a better showing from the nine-year-old grey who has been a great servant for Mullins and the Hammer and Trowel Syndicate, whose colours he has carried to multiple Grade One success.

The first of Sunday's two Grade Ones is the Prix Alain Du Breil, which is restricted to four-year-olds and has attracted Blood Cotil and Diakali, who were first and second in a Grade Three here last month.

Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls also have entries in the four-year-old race, but the race also features Sabrina Harty's Dalasiri, who will return to Grade One company for the first time since finishing sixth behind Our Conor at Christmas.

The Aga Khan-bred grey was an impressive winner since that at the Punchestown Festival, leading his trainer to wax lyrical about the future and the Curragh-based handler admits that the juvenile is going into the unknown on Sunday, but is hopeful of a bold showing.

"He has travelled over fairly well and we are happy with him, but it's going to be a hot race and you never know just how well they have travelled until they run," Harty told The Herald.



The trainer enjoyed Grade One success with another former leading juvenile, Won In The Dark, and she felt that Dalasiri deserved to take his chance.

"We decided we would give him the opportunity in a Grade One before we let him out on his holidays as it is going to be tough for him next season.

"We are taking a chance, but it's great prize money and Barry Geraghty rides him.

"He wasn't very straight going into Punchestown as he only had two weeks of work going into that, so he should improve a lot for Punchestown, but this is a step up in grade and we will see what happens."