TWO Cork jockeys were the toast of Cheltenham on the opening day of the festival, as Midleton's Paul Townend and Jerry McGrath from Waterfall came home first past the post in their races.
Townend was always in control as Duc Des Genievres ran out a facile winner of the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham.
With trainer Willie Mullins having already teamed up with Ruby Walsh to land the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle with Klassical Dream, Duc Des Genievres was a 5-1 shot to follow up in the hands of Paul Townend.
The result was scarcely in doubt, with the six-year-old grey fencing fluently throughout the two-mile contest in behind the pacesetting Knocknanuss, before taking over the lead still full of running before the home turn.
Clondaw Castle briefly looked a threat, but soon weakened as Duc Des Genievres found another gear in the straight to leave his rivals trailing in his wake.
Joseph O'Brien's Us And Them came home best of the rest but passed the post some 13 lengths behind the dominant winner. Terence O'Brien's Articulum completed a clean sweep for Ireland in third.
Glen Forsa unseated Jonathan Burke early on, while 100-30 favourite Hardline never threatened to land a telling blow.
Townend said: "The plan was to leave them at it, but this horse just travelled so well and jumped his way there. I was able to take him back down the hill and it's not too often you can do that here. He's learnt from every run. It's just brilliant to get a winner here."
A son of the trainer Tim Townend and nephew of jockey Bob, Paul also had two grandfathers who were trainers. He has been in outstanding form over the past year and will be in the mix to deliver more winners before the week is out.
Beware The Bear claimed top honours in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Waterfall's Jerry McGrath, the nine-year-old was a 10-1 shot for the first handicap of the Festival in a fiercely competitive field of 24 runners.
For much of the way it looked like Up For Review might give Willie Mullins his third winner of the afternoon as he travelled powerfully on the heels of the leaders running down the hill.
However, he made a mistake three fences from the finish and his effort soon petered out.
Beware The Bear - a winner at Cheltenham in January - was in the lead at the top of the home straight and while Sue Smith's Vintage Clouds finished strongly, Henderson's inmate had just enough in reserve to hold him at bay.
Nick Alexander's top-weight and Grand National contender Lake View Lad ran a fine race to finish third ahead of Lucinda Russell's Big River - another Scottish challenger - in fourth.