Gordon Elliott struck first blood on day three of the Punchestown Festival when Park Paddocks justified market support in the JLT Handicap Hurdle.
The County Meath handler, who began the day trailing Willie Mullins in the race to be champion trainer in Ireland, cut the deficit when the 6-1 favourite obliged in a competitive 25-runner contest.
Jack Kennedy sent the four-year-old into the lead between the last two flights but was soon challenged by Neverushacon, who looked a big danger.
However, Park Paddocks found extra on the flat to go on and score by two and a half lengths.
“Jack gave him a good ride, and he jumped well. He’ll probably go chasing over the summer and use the four-year-old allowance,” said Elliott.
“He’s a horse that might even go back to the Flat at some stage.”
Elliott vowed to enjoy the rest of the meeting despite the amazing turnaround in the trainers’ championship following Mullins’ six-timer on Wednesday.
He said: “It’s racing, and you have to smile and keep your head up. Willie is an amazing man and it just goes to show what he can do.
“If you give up in this game you’re in trouble. We are on the back foot and we’ll enjoy the rest of the week whatever happens.”
Mullins struck straight back when Cadmium stormed home in the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase.
The two-mile contest was run at a helter-skelter pace from flag fall with several horses falling by the wayside.
Nigel Hawke’s Speredek made his bid for glory when pushing on from four out, but the British raider was run out of it in the closing stages.
Danny Mullins delivered Cadmium (12-1) with a beautifully-timed run and the six-year-old bounded clear to win by eight lengths from Coeur Joyeux, with Bon Papa next to give Mullins the first and third.
The winning trainer said: “He was very good, and obviously learned over his last few runs.
“Danny got a fantastic tune out of him. I’m very pleased for him and for the Supreme Horse Racing Club (owners).
“He’ll probably stay at this job on good ground and do all the festivals.”
Mullins was just denied in the Alanna Homes Handicap Hurdle, after also taking the feature with Faugheen, as Ainsi Va La Vie was edged out on the line by A Great View.
Ainsi Va La Vie looked like being another winner for the champion trainer when Paul Townend set sail for home on the mare from the second-last flight.
However, Mark Walsh produced A Great View (7-1) with a late challenge and the Denis Cullen-trained seven-year-old got up in the final stride to claim victory.
Walsh said: “Paul said to me crossing the line that I had won it, but when it’s that close, you just don’t know.”
Cullen said: “He’s workmanlike, but when you ask him, he gives – he’s a very, very genuine horse. We felt we were a bit unlucky in Cheltenham (sixth in Pertemps Final), he missed the one two out when he was going well so it’s great compensation for the team to get this.
“It’s nice to win here because we’ve struggled a bit this year, the horses have run well but they’re hitting the crossbar. This guy now makes up for it.
“This will keep us going now into the summer when we’ve a few nice horses to run, so I’m delighted with that.”
Dawn Shadow gave jockey Rachael Blackmore a second winner at the Festival with a game display in the Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle.
Successful on True Self on Tuesday, last year’s champion Irish conditional brought the joint top-weight to take closer order at the business end of proceedings after the pacemaking duties had been shared by Redhotfillypeppers and Moyhenna.
Dawn Shadow (12-1) led over the final flight and kept up the gallop to see off Creation by a length.
Love’s assistant Ciaran Murphy said: “We are over the moon with that. Going to Cheltenham we were hoping she would run a big one and she got unlucky (fell) and she was hampered a bit at Fairyhouse.
“It was our day today and she deserved to win a big one. I said to Rachael to take a lead for as long as you can if they go quick. She’s riding really well and the mare performed for her.
“It’s lovely to get heavy black type over hurdles, as her future is over fences.”
Pat Fahy landed his second success at the meeting after Kalum River on Tuesday when Dunvegan (4-1) saw off the Mullins battalion in the concluding Kildare Post (C&G) INH Flat Race.
Fahy said: “He nearly died at one stage when he got an infection in his leg and he reacted badly to it. Natalie (Fahy’s wife) used to spend hours putting bags of fluid into him.
“He became a real pet and only for her I’d say he wouldn’t be alive.”