Sanctuaire pulled 13 lengths clear of KumbeshwarPICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
Serene Sanctuaire too good in Desert Orchid
Report: Kempton, Thursday
williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase (Grade 2) 2m, 4yo+
SANCTUAIRE dismissed his rivals in imperious style for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh, streaking clear in the home straight having been passed on the final bend by Wishfull Thinking.
Backers of Sanctuaire would have been concerned when Richard Johnson made his move on the final bend on Wishfull Thinking, but the six-year-old displayed toughness to rally, and then assert his class by going comfortably clear.
Put in his place by Sprinter Sacre in the Tingle Creek last time at Sandown, having gone off arguably too fast, Sanctuaire was more patiently ridden by Walsh this time. The pair took up the lead from the outset, but following some big leaps Walsh slowed the pace down round the side of the course.
Wishfull Thinking and Kumbeshwar kept close tabs on the leader, and rounding the final turn Richard Johnson committed for home on Wishfull Thinking.
Despite hitting 1.16 (1-6) in running on Betfair, Wishfull Thinking's effort quickly flattened, with Sanctuaire, who had gone out to 119-1 on Betfair, urged back to the front by Walsh.
The tough Kumbeshwar plugged on for second, but more bold leaps at the final fences from Sanctuaire contributed to a 13-length victory for the 11-8 favourite.
Bookmakers cut Sanctuaire to 10-1 from as big as 16 for the Champion Chase, where he could face a rematch with odds-on ante-post favourite Sprinter Sacre.
Nicholls said: "He's an enigma and both me and Ruby thought he was beaten around the last bend, especially as Ruby dropped his stick at the last in the back straight and Sanctuaire switched off. But when the other horse went past him he picked up again but that is him - he's a character.
"He probably won't take on Sprinter Sacre at Ascot (Victor Chandler Chase) but will do in the Champion Chase and then there is Sandown at the end of the season which will suit him."
Wishfull Thinking's owner Grahame Whateley said: "It wasn't his breathing, it's just that the ground didn't suit him and Richard wasn't hard on him when he couldn't win. All he wants is good ground but he is now much happier in his mind."