Footpad faces four rivals on return to action at Thurles

Patrick Mullins believes gelding has very good chance of beating Balko Des Flos

Ruby Walsh celebrates on Footpad after winning the   Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase  at Cheltenham last year. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters

Ruby Walsh celebrates on Footpad after winning the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last year. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters

 

Footpad will face four rivals on his return to action in the Boomerang.ie Chase at Thurles. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding looked a superstar in the making after going through his novice season over fences unbeaten in five starts – a campaign which featured four Grade One wins, including a stunning victory in the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

However, a final-fence fall when seemingly beaten on his reappearance at Naas last term set the tone for an underwhelming season, and he was subsequently touched off by Simply Ned at Leopardstown before finishing down the field in the Ryanair Chase back at Cheltenham.

Footpad steps down in class but up in distance for Thursday’s two-mile-six-furlong listed contest – and the trainer’s son and assistant Patrick Mullins reports the seven-year-old in fine fettle.

“Footpad is in good form at home, and this race looks a good opportunity for him to step up in trip because he has no penalties to carry,” said Mullins.

“He’s the highest-rated horse in the race – 2lb clear of Balko Des Flos.

“With Balko Des Flos in there, it’s obviously no walkover, but at the same time he looks to have a very good chance.”

Brilliant winner

Henry de Bromhead’s Balko Des Flos has never quite re-discovered the form which saw him run out a brilliant winner of the 2018 Ryanair Chase at Prestbury Park – but he may have a fitness edge over Footpad after finishing fourth on his seasonal debut at Punchestown last month.

Jessica Harrington’s Jetz, the Gordon Elliott-trained Mala Beach and Oh Me Oh My from Margaret Flynn’s yard complete the line-up.

Meanwhile, Min is likely to spearhead Willie Mullins’s quest for another win in next month’s John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.

Successful in the race last season, Min went on to win further Grade Ones at Leopardstown and Aintree.

While Mullins also has Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo, Douvan, Chacun Pour Soi and Un De Sceaux entered up on December 8th, he has nominated Min as the most likely of his runners.

“Min could start off in the John Durkan,” said Mullins.

“We were delighted with his performance at Aintree last season over two and a half miles, and we’re looking forward to getting him started again. We have other entries but will decide closer to the time.”

Another who could reappear in the race is Pat Kelly’s Presenting Percy, who picked up an injury in the Gold Cup when he last ran.

Owner Philip Reynolds said: “It’s so far so good with him – and the plan is to head to the John Durkan Chase, all being well.

“He still has an important few weeks ahead of him, and the next week or so will be crucial. All being well, he will start off at Punchestown, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed between now and then.”

Elliott has five entries – including Delta Work – and his mare Shattered Love, who returned to winning ways recently, could aim to go one better than last year.

“We’ve got plenty of options for the John Durkan and we will just see how things go over the next few weeks – but hopefully we will be well represented,” said Elliott.

“Shattered Love had a lovely confidence booster in a mares chase at Clonmel last Thursday, and that should have done her the world of good.

“She ran very well in the Durkan last year, and I hope we can get her back there in the same form this year.”

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