Thousand Stars is still reigns supreme and made it back-to-back victories in the French Champion Hurdle for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, taking things up after the last and powering clear up the Auteuil straight to register a convincing win.
Ever the professional, Walsh was in no hurry to lead the pack and took his time through the early stages on the race favourite as first Tanais Du Chenet, and then more surprisingly Sleeping Mat, established big leads over the field.
On turning for home the pack had really been whittled down to six horses, of which three were trained by Willie Mullins with Sleeping Mat still in the lead. But jumping two out the chasers began to close in and Sleeping Mat was caught before jumping the last.
In the air at the same time, Nikita Du Berlais and Thousand Stars emerged as the main contenders for the Grade 1 contest, but just as last year, Thousand Stars asserted close home.
“He travelled well, he settled well, they went a good gallop unlike last year when they walked,” said Walsh. “He jumped extremely well which he always seems to do round here and he picked up really well in the straight.
“My one concern was stamina because last year they went so slow stamina wasn’t tested and he looked like he didn’t stay at Cheltenham but he’s seen it out really well.”