Thousand among Aintree stars
Thousand Stars and Oscar Dan Dan make up the Irish challenge for this year's renewal of the John Smith's Aintree Hurdle on Saturday.
A cracking contest is in prospect for the Grade One, though, with Nicky Henderson's 2010 Champion Hurdle hero Binocular crossing swords with Donald McCain's Peddlers Cross, runner-up in this year's Cheltenham showpiece.
Binocular was forced to miss the defence of his crown after treatment administered to him for an allergy failed to clear his system, and he steps up to two and a half miles for the first time this weekend.
Peddlers Cross lost his unbeaten record last month but he did not go down without a fight to Hurricane Fly and he also has the advantage of winning over a similar trip at the meeting 12 months ago.
Oscar Whisky, the Champion Hurdle third and Binocular's stablemate, adds further spice to an intriguing mix. Celestial Halo has been nursed back to form by Paul Nicholls and was running a big race 12 months ago when falling two out, breaking Ruby Walsh's arm in the process. Connections will be hoping for better luck this year.
David Pipe's Ronaldo Des Mottes and Alan King's Salden Licht are also engaged.