Grand National candidate On His Own (10/1) was a surprise winner of the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle at Navan.
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Willie Mullins was expected to pick up this Grade Two prize but it was the admirable Thousand Stars who was expected to claim the honours rather than his Aintree-bound stablemate.
The grey, however, failed to pick up when the pace eventually quickened in the straight, turning in a laboured performance and looking a shadow of his former self.
In contrast, On His Own had moved smoothly to the head of affairs under Paul Townend and kept on gamely to repel the challenges of Gigginstown House Stud owned pair Un Beau Matin and Si C'Etait Vrai.
Mullins said of his two-and-a-quarter-length winner: "I've been trying to find a suitable hurdle race for him. He was a novice (over hurdles) before today but he's won a nice prize over hurdles now.
"Coming here today, the plan was to give him another run over fences before the National but after winning today, we might review that and he could have another run over hurdles."
Mullins blamed the ground for the poor showing from Thousand Stars.
"Ruby (Walsh) said he just couldn't handle the ground. He came back in with muck halfway up his knees and just seemed to sink into it," he said.
"He's unlikely to run at Cheltenham as the Aintree Hurdle is the one race we really have in mind for him."
Sky Bet cut the Graham Wylie-owned winner to 9/1 from 11s for Grand National glory.