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.”
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.