Irish Saint (right) lays down his challenge to runner-up Vasco Du RoncerayPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Favourite Irish Saint strikes in Adonis Hurdle
Report: Kempton, Saturday
Racing UK Subscribe For Cheltenham Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m
IRISH SAINT appeared to need every yard of the Adonis Hurdle's two-mile trip as he stayed on stoutly to beat Vasco Du Ronceray in a tight finish.
Despite coming off the bridle a long way out, the 5-4 favourite kept responding to Ruby Walsh's urgings and knuckled down impressively to give trainer Paul Nicholls his third Adonis victory in the last five runnings.
Irish Saint's performance was reminiscent of Stan James Champion Hurdle second favourite Zarkandar, who won this race on 2011 before following up in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, the four-year-old is unlikely to follow his stablemate's juvenile route as Nicholls reiterated his desire to skip Cheltenham and wait for Aintree.
"We're going to keep open-minded with this lad but I suspect that we will go to Aintree with him either in the juvenile race or over two and half miles against the older horses," said the champion trainer.
"I think in six weeks' time I can get him a little bit better than he possibly was today. He's one of the better juveniles and you wouldn't want to rule anything out but the Triumph Hurdle is only three weeks away and he's had a very hard race.
"In six weeks' time when some of the others have had a hard race at Cheltenham so it might pay to wait for Aintree."
The Alan King-trained L'unique finished third, while debutant Courtesy Call, rated 88 for Mark Johnston on the Flat, showed up for a long way before fading out of contention down the home straight.