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Darver jumps to it for Donoghue on chase debut

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Darver Star. Photo: Sportsfile

Darver Star. Photo: Sportsfile

Darver Star. Photo: Sportsfile

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 .

The eight-year-old was subsequently beaten just half a length by top-class mare Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle, and proved that effort was no fluke when third behind Epatante at Cheltenham in March.

Making his first 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 as the race progressed.

The Kalanisi gelding moved alongside the pace-setting Star Max rounding the home turn and extended 12 lengths clear, with Le Musigny making late gains to fill the runner-up spot.

"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," said the rider.

"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, but speaking from home, the trainer said he has not made plans for his next target.

Rachael Blackmore continued her rich form, following up Monday's double at Kilbeggan with another brace. First up was the success of Henry de Bromhead's Baptism Of Fire (9/2) in the two-and-a-half mile maiden hurdle before she steered the Arthur Moore-trained Midland Millie (9/2) to victory in the handicap hurdle.

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Noel Meade took the training honours with a double - sending out Sixshooter (11/8) to land the conditions hurdle under Seán Flanagan, while Finian Maguire was in the plate for Mare Quimby's (13/2) success in the bumper.


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