Rolling Star (right) comes to challenge Irish Saint (left) at CheltenhamPICTURE: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Rolling Star scores on debut for Henderson
Report: Cheltenham, Saturday
JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m1f, 4yo
ROLLING STAR lived up to his lofty reputation on his British racecourse debut, as the French import got the better of favourite Irish Saint on the run to the line.
Already a general 10-1 chance for the Triumph Hurdle before his first run for Henderson, bookmaker reaction was split, as he has been promoted to 5-1 favourite in some lists, while Ladbrokes go 8-1, with Far West their favourite at 7-1.
Irish Saint cut out the running under Ruby Walsh, with Barry Geraghty's tactics quickly apparent, as he sat on the heels of the leader with Feb Thirtyfirst also prominent.
The pair would dominate proceedings, travelling best throughout, and heading to three out the contest boiled down to a straight duel.
Although Irish Saint kept jumping fluently, Geraghty was motionless in behind, and down the straight the duo had drawn well clear. Walsh's mount took the last better, but Geraghty gathered his mount together, and picked off the leader up the run-in, winning at 5-2.
Henderson said: "They're obviously two nice four-year-olds and have come a long way clear so hopefully the form is reliable. It's only his second run over hurdles and first for us so it was pretty experimental."
Regarding the Triumph Hurdle, Henderson added: "There's a couple of others still to fire but I suspect that is where he's going to have to head. That's the obvious race, the decision will be whether we have to do it again on the way. We've got time to do that."
Paul Nicholls said of runner-up Irish Saint: "He was beaten by a better horse on the day but I'd say that was a case of chasing type beaten by a Flat horse. He's run really nicely though and they were 100 yards ahead of the rest.
"I said at Kempton that he's not necessarily a Triumph horse, and he's unlikely to run there. He's not a speed horse. He stays and gallops, but Far West has got it all, as he's got speed too."