LEADING Cork jockeys Paul Townend and Davy Russell enjoyed a successful New Year's Day, delivering big wins at Tramore and Fairyhouse respectively.
Al Boum Photo kicked off his Cheltenham Gold Cup preparations with a fourth successive victory in the Savills New Year's Day Chase at Tramore.
Willie Mullins' charge landed the Festival feature in 2019 and 2020, but he had to settle for third last year as Minella Indo scuppered his bid to join Golden Miller, Arkle, Best Mate, and Cottage Rake as a three-time winner of the race.
Al Boum Photo went on to finish second behind Clan Des Obeaux at Punchestown in April and after Mullins opted to sidestep a couple of earlier options this term, the 10-year-old made his reappearance in this Grade Three heat for a fourth year running.
Just four horses started the race, all of them trained by Mullins, with Al Boum Photo sent off the 1-6 favourite in the hands of Lisgoold jockey Townend.
Acapella Bourgeois, who finished second in this race for the last two years, set out to make the gallop with Al Boum Photo sitting on his heels until he jumped into the lead at the eighth fence.
As his stablemate quickly dropped away and was pulled up, Al Boum Photo galloped away in front and while Townend had to shake the reins a couple of fences from home as Burrows Saint tried to move upsides, the winner ultimately had his stablemate well covered.
After clearing the last, Townend just had to keep him up to his work for a four-length verdict.
Mullins said: "He fluffed one fence but did everything else right. Paul said he was just a bit idle in front.
"I'd like to get another run into him but we'll have to see (how he is)."
Coral clipped Al Boum Photo to 12-1 from 14s for the Gold Cup, while he is unchanged at 14-1 with Paddy Power for a third Festival win.
Mullins and Townend were completing a double after the victory of El Fabiolo in the opening David Flynn Construction Maiden Hurdle. Sent off the 2-7 favourite, El Fabiolo came home 13 lengths clear on what was his debut for Mullins and first run in Ireland having previously been trained in France.
Meanwhile, Mount Ida got the better of Elimay in a thrilling finish to the John & Chich Fowler Memorial EBF Mares Chase at Fairyhouse.
Trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Youghal native Russell, Mount Ida looked set to kick on for victory approaching the penultimate obstacle as long-time leader Scarlet And Dove began to backpedal while Elimay was toiling in third.
However, Mount Ida and Scarlet And Dove came together in the air, costing both valuable momentum and allowing Elimay to nudge back into contention.
Mount Ida held a narrow advantage jumping the last and while Elimay gave everything on the run to the line, Russell's mount held on by half a length.
Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On, stepping up in trip to an extended two miles and five furlongs, failed to sparkle, dropping right out to finish last of the five runners.
Mount Ida won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival back in March when under the care of Denise Foster, beating subsequent Ladbrokes Trophy winner Cloudy Glen by six and a half lengths.
Elliott said: "She's a good mare and she has kept progressing. I suppose Cheltenham was the first time she really showed it to us last year, she was brilliant in Clonmel the last day and very good again today."
Betfair go 6-1 about Mount Ida's chances in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Chase at the Festival.
Allegorie De Vassy was another given Festival quotes after an 11-length success in the Wishing Everyone A Healthy 2022 Mares Hurdle.
Making her debut for Willie Mullins, the 4-7 favourite cantered home in the hands of Sean O'Keeffe to earn a quote of 12-1 for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Jungle Boogie (5-6 favourite) made it a double for Mullins and O'Keeffe in the Happy New Year From Tote.ie Beginners Chase and a fifth win on the day overall for the trainer, who also struck with Stormy Ireland at Cheltenham, plus Al Boum Photo and El Fabiolo at Tramore.
Donagh Meyler was another to claim multiple successes as he chalked up a treble, kicking off with Carrig Sam (12-1) in the opening Happy New Year From All At Fairyhouse Maiden Hurdle.
Meyler then took both divisions of the Tote+ Pays You More At Tote.ie Handicap Hurdle with Where's Frankie (17-2) and Full Noise (8-13 favourite).