Few young chasers make the impression that Footpad did in his novice chase season, which culminated in wins at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. However, after surrendering his unbeaten record when falling on his seasonal debut, it’s time to take a look at Footpad’s career so far and what he may go onto achieve in the future.
Born: February 2012
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Jockeys: Ruby Walsh, Paul Townend, Daryl Jacob, D E Mullins, D J Mullins, K, Nabet, S. Cottin
Owners: Simon Munir and Isaac Souede
Breeder: Mlle Louise Collet & Mlle Camille Collet
In April 2015, Footpad made his debut at Auteuil Racecourse in France as a three-year-old over two-miles. Then trained by Robert Collet, he finished seventh after being sent off at odds of 59/10. He took a step forward on his second start when finishing second at odds of 56/10.
In the summer of 2015, Footpad was bought by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and transferred to trainer Willie Mullins in Ireland. He was found an easy juvenile maiden for his Irish debut at Gowran Park. He was well-backed, eventually landing odds of 1/5 by 6½ lengths.
He was entered in a Grade 2 next time but, after being sent-off the joint favourite, he could only finish third behind his then stablemate Apple’s Jade.
He followed that performance with two more wins, including in a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown, before being sent to the Cheltenham Festival to contest the 2016 Triumph Hurdle. He could only finish third, once again behind stablemate Apple’s Jade, though both were beaten by Ivanovich Gorbatov.
A fall at Aintree was followed by two runs in France, when connections stepped him up in trip to 2½ miles to win a Grade 3 and a Grade 1.
Connections then sent him back to France for his seasonal debut in Nov 2016, but he could only finish second in another Grade 1 contest.
Indeed, the second season for four-year-olds can often be a difficult season. However, he was not disgraced in finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle over the Christmas period before taking another step forward when finishing second to Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January.
He then put up an excellent performance for a five-year-old in the Champion Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, finishing strongly for third behind Buveur D’Air and Petit Mouchoir.
After watching Footpad run on strongly over two-miles on his three subsequent starts, connections decided to step him up to three-miles in the Punchestown Champion Stayers’ Hurdle and he wasn’t disgraced in finishing third behind the battle-hardened older stayers Unowhatimeanharry and Nicholls Canyon.
Footpad had always looked a chaser in the making and rumours were he had been jumping fences well at home before he made his chase debut at Navan. Backed into 4/6, he confirmed those rumours by winning by 11 lengths.
Connections couldn’t hide their excitement and instantly stepped him up to Grade 1 company. He easily won the Racing Post Novice Chase and followed that win by beating old rival Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Arkle.
The money continued to pour in for him to win the Arkle Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and he was sent-off as the 5/6 favourite having scared off all but four rivals. There was a slight doubt that he would be outpaced in a truly run two-mile chase, but he was helped by Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados taking each other on in the lead. As the pacesetters ran out of steam in the closing stages, Footpad swept past to win by an easy 14-lengths.
He then confirmed he was a chaser right out of the top-drawer at the Punchestown Festival where he won the Ryanair Novice Chase by 12-lengths.
Footpad was just 4/9 for his seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Poplar Square Chase but connections probably hadn’t thought he would have to concede 2lb to the promising second season front-running chaser Saint Calvados.
Saint Calvados got an easy lead and, though Footpad was closing as he came towards the last, he still looked likely to finish second even if he hadn’t fallen at the last, again suggesting he could be better over further.
What the Future May Hold
Connections have lots of options for Footpad, with Arkle winners having a great record in the following season’s Champion Chase. However, having already side-stepped taking on Altior in the Tingle Creek Chase, they do have the option of stepping him up in trip to contest races like the King George on Boxing Day.
Footpad can be backed at around 25/1 for the King George, and those odds wouldn’t last long if Willie Mullins targeted him at the Boxing Day showpiece. However, the bookies have installed him as the odds-on ante-post favourite for the Paddy’s Rewards Club Sugar Paddy Chase at Leopardstown on the following day.
If he wins either of those races, his odds for the Cheltenham Festival are likely to shorten. He’s currently 5/1 second-favourite for the Champion Chase and 25/1 the Cheltenham Gold Cup.