Connections of Footpad are confident he can get his season back on track in the Paddy’s Rewards Club “Sugar Paddy” Chase at Leopardstown.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old enjoyed a faultless novice campaign over fences last season, winning each of his five starts – including the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown and the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.
He was unsurprisingly long odds-on to make a successful reappearance in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas last month, but blotted his copybook with an indifferent round of jumping before he eventually came to grief at the final fence when seemingly booked for second place behind Saint Calvados.
Mullins later revealed Footpad had suffered an overreach and was “very sore”, but the trainer’s son Patrick believes he is back on-song for his return to action.
He said: “He slipped early on in Naas, and obviously wasn’t right after that. We’re hoping he’ll be back to himself tomorrow.
“He’s been working well and schooling well since, and we’re looking forward to getting him going again.”
The champion trainer has a second string to his bow in Great Field, who is also on a retrieval mission after suffering his first defeat over fences when falling at the second fence in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
Mullins junior added: “He seemed to jumped the fence perfectly in Cork and just toppled over on the far side of it.
“He schooled himself after – jumping loose for the rest of the race – and has schooled well at home since.
“We have to get these horses out and running, and there’s some good prize-money up for grabs.
“Hopefully one of them can do the business.”
Great Field is one of two runners for leading owner JP McManus, along with the prolific Ballyoisin.
The seven-year-old has won his last four races for Enda Bolger and earned this step up to the highest level with a dominant front-running victory in the Fortria Chase at Navan.
Bolger said: “We’re looking forward to it, but this is obviously going to be his toughest assignment to date.
“He’s in good form, and we’re happy with the way he’s training. The ground is good to yielding – which is rarity at this time of year – and that is in his favour.
“He’s rated up there now, so this day had to come, and we’ll see how he goes.”
Castlegrace Paddy is an interesting contender for Pat Fahy, having run out an impressive winner of the Hilly Way Chase following Great Field’s early exit.
Fahy said: “We’re looking forward to running him, so long as the ground isn’t too quick.
“We’ve been happy with him since Cork. We had to work him fairly hard to get him there, and it’s been a lot easier since. He’s just been ticking over and having a few blow-outs.
“He’s going to be take on those big boys – and if he can beat them or get close to them then we can head in the same direction as they are.
“If he finishes a long way behind, and there’s no obvious excuse, we might have to rethink – but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“I’d expect him to be at least in the same category as them, so we’ll see how we go.”
Nicky Richards is looking forward to seeing his admirable veteran Simply Ned return to Leopardstown.
The 11-year-old has made five previous appearances at the Foxrock circuit and has finished out of the first three just once.
He enjoyed his big day in the sun when claiming this prize last season – passing the post narrowly behind the Mullins-trained Min before the result was reversed in the stewards’ room.
Richards said: “The old horse is in grand fettle, and we’re looking forward to it.
“He obviously likes the track. I see he’s one of the outsiders again, but I’m sure he’ll beat more than beat him.
“He’s a very solid horse, who very rarely runs a bad race. I’m sure he’ll run another good one.”
Gordon Elliott’s Doctor Phoenix completes the seven-strong field.