World Hurdle hope Thousand Stars set to shirk the challenge
Even though he is the third highest-rated staying hurdler in the business it is looking almost certain that the Willie Mullins-trained Thousand Stars will not take his chance in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, (a race for which he is currently a 10/1 shot), connections having been frightened away by the awesome presence of the mighty Big Buck's who will seek to win the race for a record breaking fourth successive year, writes Elliot Slater.

An impressive winner of the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil last June, Thousand Stars is a particularly versatile performer and already this term has won in Grade 1 company in his native Ireland over the minimum trip, defeating Oscars Well to land the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November.

 Connections of the eight-year-old have been weighing up their options since the gelded son of Grey Risk ran a close second to the smart mare Unaccompanied in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29, and the champion Irish trainer appears to have made up his mind to swerve Big Buck's and instead allow Thousand Stars to take on his stable companion and reigning champion hurdler Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham on March 13.

Currently on offer at up to 20/1 to land the two-mile hurdling crown while Hurricane Fly remains a solid 9/4 favourite to win back-to-back renewals of the race, (despite not having been seen in action so far this term), Mullins made it clear that the ultimate objective for Thousand Stars this term is to go one better than last year in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle over two-and-a-half miles, a contest in which Ruby Walsh's mount went down with all guns blazing against Oscar Whisky, eventually failing by just a neck to peg back the Nicky Henderson-trained star.

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