Champion Hurdle third Darver Star outclassed his rivals to run out a wide-margin winner on his debut over fences at Punchestown.
Gavin Cromwell’s charge enjoyed a remarkable rise in 2019, improving from a lowly mark of 104 to finishing third behind the hugely-exciting Envoi Allen in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The eight-year-old was subsequently beaten just half a length by top-class mare Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, and proved that effort was no fluke when third behind Epatante at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Making his first competitive appearance since, Darver Star was the 8-13 favourite for the Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Beginners Chase and jumped well in the main under Keith Donoghue, improving in that particular department as the race progressed.
The Kalanisi gelding moved ominously alongside the pacesetting Star Max rounding the home turn and comfortably extended 12 lengths clear, with Le Musigny making late gains to fill the runner-up spot.
Donoghue said: “He jumped well on the whole. Early on we were going a bit steady and he was a bit asleep and reached at a few, but down the back when I was trying to make up ground, he jumped dead straight and very quick.
“I hadn’t schooled him and it was my first time to jump with him. I think in a good race he’d have no bother.
“He has loads of scope and is well able to use himself. He’s an exciting horse.”
Cromwell was not in attendance due to being in quarantine, having travelled to Newmarket last weekend to saddle four runners in the Cesarewitch.
Speaking from home, the trainer said: “I was delighted with him. His jumping was a bit sticky early on all right, but I think he was just following the horse in front of him.
“When they quickened up I thought he jumped a lot better and he’ll have learnt a lot from today, I’m sure.
“I was happy with the way he finished off. I’m not sure where we’ll go next – I’ve not made any plans just yet.”
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