Rolling Star mastered Irish Saint close home to make a winning British debut in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham.
Irish Saint and Ruby Walsh cut out much of the running in the Grade Two contest, but Barry Geraghty shadowed his every move aboard Rolling Star and it was clear heading down the hill the pair were a cut above their rivals.
Walsh's mount still held a narrow advantage approaching the final flight and jumped it the better, but Geraghty had not gone for everything and when he did Rolling Star picked up well to go on and score by two and a quarter lengths. Roc D'Apsis was some 30 lengths further back in third.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Irish Saint was sent off the odds-on favourite on the strength of a runaway victory at Kempton on his first start on these shores, with fellow French recruit Rolling Star next best at 5-2 for Nicky Henderson.
The Seven Barrows handler said: "They are obviously two nice four-year-olds who've come a long way clear of the rest.
"It's only his second run over hurdles and his first for us, so it's good to see him win.
"He was due to go to Ascot (before it was abandoned) and this was the next obvious place to come."
Asked whether he thought Rolling Star was a Triumph Hurdle horse, he said: "I suppose he looks like one."
Paddy Power make Rolling Star their new 6-1 favourite (from 10-1) for the Triumph Hurdle back at Cheltenham in March.
Nicholls said of the runner-up: "The winner is probably a Flat horse and we're more a chaser. I think it would be unlikely he'll run in the Triumph as he's more of a future horse."
12 March 2014Cooper breaks leg in fall
Easterby on a high after Hawk swoop
King rules for Hobbs and Johnson
Super Sire crowned Champion
Whisper shouts loud and proud
O'Faolains collects RSA spoils
Hard to fault super Faugheen
Walsh clarifies welfare comments
Buck's bids to roll back the years
Bobs heads Gold contenders
Walsh - Fly lacked finish
Mullins succumbs to Hercules pull
Faugheen chasing Neptune glory
Mullins sweet on Ballycasey
Arvika primed for Champion assault
Conan has Sire in his sights
Injured Maguire making progress
Six of the best for magical Quevega
Henderson hails Harrington win
Classy Conor loses life
Jet-propelled Jezki takes Champion
11 March 2014Present and correct for Snowden
Midnight express steams to NH glory
Holywell repeats Festival dose
Warhorse wins Arkle battle
Vautour storms to Supreme success
No track worries for Sire team
Mullins to field three in JLT
Ferof features in Ryanair dozen
Leading duo top World field
Last and First in Gold frame
Injured Maguire out of Festival
Judgement day beckons for Fly
Curtis wants Scholfield for Tea
Que takes aim at Festival landmark
Irving strives to rule Supreme
Champagne in sparkling form
Sire spearheads Queen Mother entry
Confidence behind Conor
Special One bids for Champion glory
10 March 2014Maguire airlifted to hospital
Clouds lined up for RSA
Gold hopes fading for Topper
Ruby ready to Rock
Suspensory problem sidelines Chris
Mullins 'very happy' with Fly
Cooper raring to go after fall
National glee for supersub Mullins
Francome fancies New One revenge
Quinn targets another Triumph
Buck's primed for World title bid
Cheltenham team monitor ground
Fenton delays Instalment call
Activial to duck Festival mission
Hope springs eternal for Encore
Fab Fly takes on eight in Champion
9 March 2014Fall leaves Cooper 'badly winded'
Cooper warms up with double
Cooper warms up with double
Avenue roads lead to Irish Oaks
Dude's the main man
Top trainers reject watering
Hinterland takes Champion test
Baltimore sets up bonus bid
Warrior wins Trial battle
Fallon hits Meydan heights
Chartreux bounces back to best
Brave Vic has Final word
Soumillon strikes on super Shea
On His Own joins Gold Cup field