Irish Eyes: It's in the Stars
Irish Eyes takes a detailed look at today's card at Leopardstown and fancies Thousand Stars to remind us all how good he is.
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How quickly we forget; it's less than a year since Thousand Stars finished second to Hurricane Fly and in front of Rock On Ruby at Punchestown, yet he has already been written off in some quarters following three subsequent runs.
Two French expeditions did not go hugely well - there were valid excuses - before he finished last of five over Christmas. However, his last run has to be considered in the context of this race; there is no shame in finishing behind Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Our Conor and Captain Cee Bee, all of whom are rated a minimum of 12lb higher than any horse Thousand Stars takes on today.
Granted, it can be argued that he may no longer be able to run to his 161 rating, however, if he runs to even a stone bellow that, he still wins this event. Mullins has given him a good break since Christmas with a view to getting him right before starting back again and the word is he showing his old sparkle again at home. He gets the nap vote.
Champion Bumper entry Aminabad is likely to be all the range in the concluding race. He was subsequently purchased by Gigginstown in the wake of a winning debut over today's course and distance, which rules out the possibility of an appearance at Cheltenham as the O'Leary's do not like to run their young bumper horses at Prestbury Park.
The form of his Leopardstown win has since been franked by the runner-up What Lies Ahead, a two-length winner at Puchestown last week. However, his winner's penalty means he has to give away lumps of weight all around, a feat that the 5/4 favourite Grecian Tiger failed to do last year.
It may come as a surprise to hear that Willie Mullins has not had a runner in this race since 2009 when Blackstairmountain was another who failed to concede weight to the rest of the field, so you'd have to conclude that Aminabad has his work cut out and is worth taking on, particularly at odds-on.
Off The Mark is a High Chaparral three-parts brother to Serious Fun who failed to trouble the judge in seven starts and given that she was by Galileo, it's hard to imagine this lad will be any better. When you consider that Christy Roche's horses are not running well at the moment, it is easy enough to look past him today.
That brings us to the ex-Aidan O'Brien trained Rockingham Bay. He has just under five lengths to find with Aminabad on their debut, and he is seven pounds better off this time around. Furthermore, he is bred to like the ground as hard as a rock and whilst he won't get that today, the going will be better than the soft conditions he encountered on his debut when he lead but simply couldn't pick up on the ground at the business end of the race.
Rockingham Bay beat Never Never by over three lengths that day and he appeals at the forecast prices, if not for a win, at least in the betting without market.
Hidden Universe gets the each-way vote in the two-mile handicap hurdle. He has an absence of 506-days to overcome, as well as the injury that prevented him from running since October 2012, but the handicapper has taken these facts into account and allows him to compete today off an 11lb lower mark that when last seen over hurdles.
A talented performer, Hidden Universe boasts a Grade One bumper and a November Handicap amongst his six victories, three of which have come at this track. Course form is an obvious plus, as is the presence of reigning Irish Champion national hunt jockey Davy Russell.
Hidden Universe needs to win today in order to qualify for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham. The English handicapper has him on a mark of 131 and he is likely to need an eight or nine-pound penalty to get in. He is worth an each-way nibble at the forecast prices.
Nap: Thousand Stars, 2.50 Leopardstown
Next Best: Rockingham Bay, 5.20 Leopardstown
Each-Way: Hidden Universe, 3.20 Leopardstown