The Storyteller stars for Gordon Elliott in Punchestown feature

The Storyteller provided Gordon Elliott with a sixth victory in the Irish Daily Star Salutes Our Frontline Heroes Chase at Punchestown.

The Cullentra handler claimed back-to-back runnings of the Grade Three contest with Roi Du Mee in 2011 and 2012, before adding to his tally with Toner D’Oudairies in 2013 and saddling his Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack to score in both 2014 and 2015.

The Storyteller spearheaded a four-pronged Elliott team in this year’s renewal – and with the 2018 Cheltenham Festival winner holding a match fitness advantage over several of his rivals, having been on the go during the summer, he was the 2-1 favourite.

Ridden patiently by Keith Donoghue, the nine-year-old travelled strongly into the home straight before pulling seven and a half lengths clear of the Noel Meade-trained Tout Est Permis.

Elliott said: “He was getting all the allowances and he was fit, but he won well.

“He’s a great money-spinner and I wouldn’t mind having a few more like him. He’ll probably go for the Grade One in Down Royal (Ladbrokes Champion Chase) now.

“I could see him running over hurdles as well, so we’ll mix and match with him.”

Eskylane had earlier extended Elliott’s excellent recent record in the Sherry Fitzgerald Brady O’Flaherty Maiden Hurdle.

Cheltenham Festival winners Labaik and Samcro won successive renewals for the team in 2016 and 2017, and Eskylane was the 8-11 favourite to follow suit on his first start since finishing fifth in last season’s Champion Bumper.

It was not entirely plain sailing for odds-on backers, with Eskylane displaying a tendency to hang under Donoghue, but he managed to hold the persistent challenge of Gabynako at bay by half a length.

“I’d say he probably wants two and a half miles. He has a bit of age, but he is still raw and a big baby,” said Elliott.

“He’ll step up in grade and could go to Navan for the Monksfield Novice Hurdle.”

Zarkareva (5-1) claimed Grade Three honours in the Branding Irish Racecourses Novice Chase.

A runaway winner at Sligo last month, Henry de Bromhead’s filly successfully stepped up in class as she came from last to first under Dylan Robinson and passed the post just over two lengths clear of Polished Steel, with hot favourite A Wave Of The Sea a close-up third.

“She gave me a great feel and when I asked her to quicken, she winged the last and did it all very easily,” said Robinson.

“Her jumping got better as the race went on. I was very impressed with her.”

Darver underlines Star potential on Punchestown chasing bow

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.”

Gavin Cromwell has high hopes for Darver Star
Gavin Cromwell has high hopes for Darver Star (David Davies/PA)

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.”