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Stars set to shine again for Mullins

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Cheltenham Festival - Champion Day...CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Ruby Walsh riding Quevega win The OLBG Mares' Hurdle Race during Champion Day at Cheltenham racecourse on March 12, 2013 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)...S

Cheltenham Festival - Champion Day...CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Ruby Walsh riding Quevega win The OLBG Mares' Hurdle Race during Champion Day at Cheltenham racecourse on March 12, 2013 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)...S

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DESPITE being in the midst of the speed and excitement of the Flat season, jump racing is going to be the main focus of attention for some over the weekend.

Those wondering why the likes of Ruby Walsh, Paul Townend, David Casey and our own Katie Walsh are not in action at Limerick on Sunday afternoon need not panic that trainers have opted against using them because the quartet of jockeys will be on the outskirts of Paris, in action at Auteuil for a lucrative day of jump racing.

Willie Mullins has barely had time to reflect on what has been the most memorable season of his training career as he is focused on landing another couple of nice pots.

After following home Hurricane Fly at Punchestown in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle, Thousand Stars returns to Auteuil 12 months on from landing the Grade Two Prix La Barka in a bid to win the race for a second time.

The ever-consistent nine-year-old was second in the race in 2011, but went one better last year and now looks to return to winning ways for the first time since last June.

Mullins told The Herald: "Thousand Stars has been working well since he ran at Punchestown and it is the race he won over there last year so we think he is in good form going over there."

Mullins runs three in the race, including last year's runner-up Zaidpour.

"Zaidpour and So Young are also in that race and I've got three in the four-year-old race as well.

"Zaidpour was second to Thousand Stars in the race last year and So Young has to improve his form travelling but we are hoping he will and he seems in good form anyway."

Mullins is set to be the only Irish trainer to be represented at the meeting despite some very good prize money on offer.

"It is nice prize money and the horses are good enough to go and take their chances, which is important," Ireland's champion trainer added.

"Diakali, Blood Cotil and Viconte Du Noyer are the three four-year-olds I have going over.

"Blood Cotil has previous form at the track from before we got him I think, Viconte Du Noyer won there as well and Diakali looks to be the best of ours so he'll go and take his chance."

After their respective wins at Punchestown, Mullins briefly toyed with the idea of sending Hurricane Fly and Quevega over to France, with an ambition for Hurricane Fly to emulate Dawn Run by winning the Champion Hurdles in Ireland, England and France. However, that won't be happening – this year, anyway.

"Hurricane Fly is gone out to grass, as is Quevega," Mullins confirmed.

"We'll see how we get on with the runners this weekend before making any plans. There is another meeting next month that Thousand Stars won at last year, but Hurricane Fly and Quevega won't be going as they are both gone out to grass."

Briefly reflecting on the terrific season he enjoyed which saw many records being smashed, the trainer added: "Looking back, and I suppose with the number of winners and the form of the horses – barring one blip in October – they held their form all season. We had a tremendous start and we kept it up the whole way.

"There was just different highlights in the season.

"Getting Hurricane Fly back to his best and Quevega to win her fifth at Cheltenham and Patrick's riding for the season has been fantastic and they are all things that come to mind, as well as a fabulous time at Cheltenham and Punchestown."

The Mullins four-year-olds will run in the Prix Questarabad which is run at 4.40pm and is worth €350,000, while the Prix La Barka is the following race at 5.15pm and is worth €135,000. The feature race of the day, which didn't attract any English or Irish entries, is the Grand Steeple Chase De Paris, worth an astonishing €850,000.

Confirming his jockey bookings, Mullins concluded: "Ruby rides Thousand Stars, Paul (Townend) rides Zaidpour and David Casey rides So Young while, in the four-year-old race, Ruby rides Diakali, Paul rides Blood Cotil and David rides Viconte Du Noyer. Like Ireland they have had a very wet spring so the ground should be safe."


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