Elliott tightens grip with Grade 1 double on day two
Having seen his lead cut on day one, Gordon Elliott re-established his advantage over Willie Mullins in the Irish trainers' championship with a valuable Grade 1 double on the second day of the Punchestown festival.
Champagne Classic's victory over the Mullins-trained Penhill in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle got the ball rolling and the bubbly was put on ice after Fayonagh followed up her Cheltenham win in the Champion Bumper.
With a lead of €276,780 with three days to go Elliott is priced at 30-100 and Mullins a 9-4 shot with Paddy Power and Betfair.
After his big gains the previous day, it proved a frustrating time for Mullins, whose solidarity win with C'est Jersey (stablemate Battleford second) was followed by a string of near-misses in the big races.
While Djakadam's narrow defeat in the Punchestown Gold Cup would have proved hard to stomach, he did at least add €47,500 to the Closutton coffers and Paddy Power chose to shorten Mullins slightly (from 5-2) and push out Elliott (from 2-7) with the reigning champ holding a typically strong hand on Thursday.
The €250,000 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle looks the key contest with the rivals set to saddle four runners apiece.
Cheltenham hero Nichols Canyon leads the Mullins camp, but Elliott will be pinning hopes on Sutton Place continuing his progression after five wins on the bounce.
Mullins will surely need to land at least one of the big races and he will have high hopes for Great Field, who is likely to go off a short-priced favourite in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase.
Regardless of the destination of the title, Elliott is looking to prize another landmark out of Mullins' hands. He is on 191 winners for the season, which is just two short of Mullins' Irish record set in 2012-13.