Paris rematch for Stars and Zaidpour
Willie Mullins has confirmed that he will launch a five-pronged assault on Auteuil this Sunday, with the 2011 French Champion Hurdle hero Thousand Stars one of three set to represent the champion trainer in this year's feature.
Passed over by Ruby Walsh in favour of Zaidpour before readily denying his stablemate in the Prix La Barka at the Parisian venue three weeks ago, Thousand Stars will again be joined by Zaidpour in Sunday's Grade One.
Mourad, well held behind the durable grey that day but fourth to him in last year's Champion Hurdle -- known locally as the Grand Course De Haies D'Auteuil -- will be the Closutton stable's third runner.
While Mullins said yesterday that riding plans for the trio have yet to be finalised, he didn't discount Zaidpour's prospects of turning the form around in the three-mile-one-and-a-half-furlong showpiece, which boasts a first prize of €166,500 that he has won three times in all.
Six lengths clear of Thousand Stars when second to Hurricane Fly at the Punchestown Festival, Zaidpour was sent off favourite to reaffirm that superiority at Auteuil in May.
"Thousand Stars jumps those French hurdles very well, and I think his experience told in the Barka," Mullins suggested about a result he admitted was somewhat unexpected.
"Zaidpour just didn't jump well enough on the day, so that experience will stand to him on Sunday. As well as that, the Barka is over a trip (two miles, five and a half furlongs) that suits Thousand Stars well, and I think the longer trip will help Zaidpour.
"However, he will meet Thousand Stars on six-pound worse terms this time, so that is another factor to consider."
In the four-year-old Grade One, Mullins' Ut De Sivola and Loch Ard are among a decent quartet of Irish-trained horses that comprise a third of the entries.
Second to Hisaabaat in the equivalent race at Punchestown, Ut De Sivola could again meet Dermot Weld's charge on Sunday, while the third home, Tony Martin's Wingtips, also has the option of running.
Mullins stated that Walsh, who won the €121,500 two-and-a-half-miler on Strangely Brown for Eric McNamara in 2005, would be aboard Ut De Sivola.
Aidan O'Brien, meanwhile, is keeping his options open for last Saturday's brilliant Derby victor Camelot.
The Ballydoyle maestro said at a function to launch the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Tuesday night that The Curragh Classic on June 30 remains a possible next assignment for the colt that could bid to become the first horse since Nijinsky, in 1970, to complete the Triple Crown by winning the Ladbrokes St Leger in September.
The King George VI Stakes at Ascot, which Nijinksy won after completing the Derby double at The Curragh, is also a potential target for Ballydoyle superstar Camelot.
Along with the likes of St Nicholas Abbey, Fame And Glory, Was and Astrology, he is one of 16 that O'Brien has left in the July 21 Group One that might also feature Jim Bolger's sidelined Light Heavy.
Intriguingly, the 37 entries include three of last autumn's biggest racing stars across the world.
Danedream, the German-based winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Champion Stakes hero Cirrus Des Aigles and Dunaden, a nose victor of the Melbourne Cup, are all prospective starters in the prestigious contest, as is Monterosso, the Dubai World Cup winner in March.