WILLIE Mullins and Ruby Walsh came close to landing another big pot yesterday when Thousand Stars ran a fantastic race in defeat as he chased home Roi Du Val in the Prix La Barka at Auteuil.
The gallant grey has failed to get his head in front since triumphing in last year's County Hurdle at Cheltenham, but has enjoyed a fine season.
The seven-year-old was left chasing the shadow of his esteemed stable companion Hurricane Fly on a number of occasions, but was placed in the Irish Champion Hurdle, fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and second in both the Aintree Hurdle and most recently at Punchestown.
Ridden by Walsh in France, Thousand Stars travelled kindly throughout the Grade Two contest and was still hard on the bridle rounding the turn for home.
But try as he might, he could not reel in Roi Du Val and had to make do with the runner-up spot once again, which was worth €38,250 to connections.
Mullins also saddled this year's County Hurdle winner Final Approach, which also travelled strongly for a long way before weakening into sixth.
The Irish champion trainer's third string Dorset Square never threatened to land a telling blow, while Zaynar, now trained by Nick Williams, showed up well for a long way before his effort petered out.
"Thousand Stars ran another very good race. He was as game as ever and stayed on all the way to the line," Mullins reflected.
"He might have earned himself a tilt at the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil next month (French Champion Hurdle). I think he deserves a go at it.
"We'll think about next season later on. He could go chasing, but he might earn more money just staying over hurdles, so we'll see. Final Approach jumped very well for his first time over the French hurdles and I need to talk to the owner and see if he wants him to come back to France as well.
"Dorset Square just didn't handle the jumps at all. He was too slow and careful at his hurdles, so we'll get him home."
Meanwhile, the colours of Roscommon-born property developer Sean Mulryan were carried to victory by Mid Dancer in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris four years after his previous victory in France's most prestigious chase.
Now a ten-year-old, Mid Dancer is a veteran in French jumping terms after years at the top level during a prolific career in which he first won the French Gold Cup as a six-year-old back in 2007 -- the year after he won the Grande Course de Haies (French Champion Hurdle).
Trained by Christophe Aubert and ridden by Sylvain Dehez, he scored by three lengths from the favourite Rubi Ball.
The highly-rated Rubi Ball locked horns with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run more than once when the latter was also trained in France, beating that exalted rival in another race on this card in 2009.