AMATEUR Katie Walsh and popular grey Thousand Stars rekindled their prosperous relationship as the pair claimed a thrilling renewal of the Grade Two Prix La Barka at Auteuil yesterday.
Willie Mullins sent over a team of five horses to the French track for yesterday’s meeting and his decision to skip Punchestown with the popular grey proved a correct one as Thousand Stars dug deep to deny Le Grand Luce.
Mullins had earlier in the afternoon saddled Gitante Du Berlais to finish a respectable third in the Prix La Questarabad and of his four runners in the Prix La Barka it was Diakali who was sent off favourite under Ruby Walsh.
However, Thousand Stars was racing handily under Katie Walsh. As she sent the grey to the head of affairs turning in, he looked to hold every chance of recording a memorable win.
However, Le Grand Luce collared the 10-year-old after the last flight and appeared to seize the initiative only for Thousand Stars to battle back under a power-packed drive from Walsh and the pair got back up to win by a nose in a photo-finish with 7/4 favourite Diakali back in third.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins said afterwards: “He’s an extraordinary horse and I thought Katie gave him a fantastic ride.
“Hopefully he’ll be back in three-weeks time for another crack at the Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil.”
The Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil is also known as the French Champion Hurdle and is a race that Thousand Stars won in 2011 and 2012.
Mullins added: “Diakali ran on well and probably didn’t jump as well as he can. Hopefully he can improve his jumping and he’ll come back here for the big one as well.
“Zaidpour also ran fantastically and I think he’s also booked his ticket for the race. I’m not sure about Glens Melody. She ran well but we might look to give her a break.”
Mullins added: “Gitane Du Berlais ran well earlier in the day and will come back here as well next month for the big four-year-old race, along with Abbyssial.”
Nicky Henderson’s Long Run failed to land a blow in the Grand Steeple-Chase De Paris.