Stars aims to shine again

Thousand Stars has a good opportunity to secure his first win in over a year and a half in the Ballsbridge Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.

The Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old has spent much of his career picking up minor honours behind brilliant stable companion Hurricane Fly, but has enjoyed some days in the sun, notably winning the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and the French Champion Hurdle twice.

He was disappointing at Auteuil last summer, however, and finished last of five runners behind Hurricane Fly in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival.

Mullins hopes a significant drop in class this weekend can help Thousand Stars gain a much deserved return to the winner's enclosure.

"This looks a nice race to start him back in and I would imagine he'll be delighted not to see Hurricane Fly!" said the champion trainer.

"Things have not gone right for him so far this season, but he is well suited by the conditions of this race and we're looking forward to getting him back."

Thousand Stars faces just five opponents over two and a quarter miles this weekend on what will be his first start outside Graded company since his County Hurdle triumph almost four years ago.

His stable companion Midnight Game, last seen chasing home another esteemed stablemate in Un De Sceaux in the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park, is rated 21lb below Thousand Stars but is still second best in this field on official ratings.

Mullins said: "It's very difficult to find races for these horses, so we're pleased this opportunity came up."

Noel Meade's Busty Brown, Billy Harney's Joxer, the Edward O'Grady-trained Sailors Warn and Jessica Harrington's mare Burn And Turn complete the sextet.