CORK jockey Paul Townend and trainer Willie Mullins got off the mark for the week at the Cheltenham Festival when Ferny Hollow downed better-fancied stablemate Appreciate It in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
It had been a frustrating first two days to the meeting for Mullins, who hit the crossbar a few times and was forced to rule Chacun Pour Soi out of the Queen Mother Champion Chase on the morning of the race.
Paul Townend, riding as first choice jockey for Mullins in his own right for the first time this season, was also suffering, but he gave Ferny Hollow (11-1) a nerveless ride having been last in the early stages.
He met trouble in running coming down the hill as Patrick Mullins moved stablemate and favourite Appreciate It into the box position, but the market leader had no answer as Ferny Hollow powered home to win by two and a half lengths.
Mullins has now won the race 10 times, having struck first in 1996 with Wither or Which, a horse he rode himself.
He said: "A goal on the stroke of half-time they are calling it here. It is nice get on the board anyhow.
"We just didn't get the bounce of the ball yesterday with one horse taking out another and it looked like we were a shade unlucky in the Mares' Hurdle, but they all ran well.
"Then there was Chacun Pour Soi this morning and though he will be fine in a few days, it was just bad timing. You just keep going and just hope it turns around.
"I thought Patrick had it won just after turning for home, but we could see Paul coming and he won quite easy in the end."
Odds-on backers had their fingers burnt by Ferny Hollow on his first two bumper starts, but he rewarded those who kept the faith on his third outing at Fairyhouse last month.
Mullins added: "He just ran too free on his first two runs and putting a hood on him has changed him, as have more drastic tactics in holding him up.
"He is lovely at home, but he takes a pull. In a race he gets a little bit upset so I think jumping will suit him a lot better.
"We will probably go for the Champion Bumper at Punchestown now and maybe the same for the other horse, Appreciate It."
Patrick Mullins made no excuses for the beaten favourite, saying: "My horse is a beautiful horse to ride. He just got beat by a better horse on the day as everything went right for us.
"Going forward he is one to look forward to. I think he can go two and a half to three miles no problem, but he is not slow either. I'd imagine in the future he will be running over two and a half miles plus."