Pat Keane: Footpad is now one to be avoided at all costs

Pat Keane: Footpad is now one to be avoided at all costs
Footpad hasn’t progressed from his novice days.

It was the same old story, the same old excuses, yet another failure.

Yes, indeed, Footpad again buried punters — many of them — one more time when failing to deliver in a Grade 2 chase at Thurles last Sunday.

The pace of the race is never right for him... he pulls too hard... he does this and he does that, all sorts of reasons are trotted out to explain what goes wrong.

You just yearn for someone, somewhere, to simply point out that Footpad is not the horse he was, is not the horse he promised to be and is just not progressive.

I’ve been saying it here, for decades, the surest way to the poor house is making excuses for beaten horses and have long lost faith in the eight-year-old.

Make no mistake about it he was a really top-notch novice chaser. He won all five of his races as a novice, at Navan, then twice at Leopardstown, before scoring at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals. It is no exaggeration to say he was absolutely spectacular on all five occasions.

His most memorable effort came at Cheltenham in the 2018 Arkle Trophy. Remember he blundered badly at the sixth and was then given all the time needed to recover by Ruby Walsh, prior to strolling clear in the straight to win by 14 lengths.

Since he left his novice days behind however, he has essentially become a serial failure. His downward spiral began at Naas in November of 2018. He was well held in second, behind all-the-way winner Saint Calvados, when falling at the final fence.

He suffered an overreach that day and so we largely excused him that seriously below-par performance.

Footpad returned a month later at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and this was the day when the decision was made to no longer trust him.

He seemed to have a Grade 1 safely in the bag, until weakening dramatically close home and going under by half a length to the five years older, Simply Ned.

Willie Mullins’ charge still headed to Cheltenham and actually went off the 7-2 favourite for the Ryanair Chase. He came home eighth of the eight finishers behind Frodon, after reportedly bursting blood vessels.

He arrived at Kempton this past Christmas for the King George, on the back of a winning return in a nothing-race at Thurles five weeks earlier.

Footpad took a remote third behind Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname, beaten 21 lengths and five lengths. We had a pain in our heads hearing repeatedly he didn’t stay.

To my way of thinking that was rubbish. Look back at the King George and you will see Footpad gasping for air fully half a mile from home. The reason he wasn’t competitive is there was no fight whatsoever in him.

And it was exactly the same story at Thurles six days ago. In theory, Footpad had 10lbs in hand of eventual winner, Real Steel, but was hammered to the tune of 14 lengths by his rival.

And while on the subject of Real Steel, he’s definitely on an upward curve and didn’t that Thurles effort make you wonder about the rather strange ride the horse got from Patrick Mullins previously in the John Durkan at Punchestown.

Ridden for speed then, as stable companion and winner Min got a freebie in front, Real Steel could not raise his tempo in the straight and could only manage a mildly disappointing fourth.

Paul Townend made far more use of him at Thurles and it was like watching another horse. The difference it made is self-explanatory.

In the Durkan, Gordon Elliott’s Hardline was second, a length and a half in front of Real Steel. At Thurles, Real Steel was 2lbs better in with Hardline and beat him over 40 lengths into fourth.

When Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo landed last year’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, he shaped as a possible star of the future.

What was so impressive was the fact Minella Indo raced with the choke out for so much of the three miles and was still able to pick up from the last and win by two lengths.

He was returned at 50-1 for a reason — it was impossible to make a case for him.

But when he came home and followed Cheltenham by winning a three-mile Grade 1 at the Punchestown festival then that seemed to be all the proof we needed to believe this was a horse who might have the potential to go all the way as a chaser.

He made an encouraging start over fences at Gowran Park in November, second to Laurina over an inadequate two and a half miles, and the signs continued to be positive.

But I must admit I have gone really cold on him after his length and a half win from Captain CJ at Navan last Saturday.

Admittedly, Rachael Blackmore only gave the outside to the ambulance throughout but, that said, the fuel gauge on Minella Indo seemed dangerously close to empty on the run-in.

It seems we are not going to see him again before Cheltenham and that complicates matters.

This week he was 7-1 second-favourite for Cheltenham’s RSA Chase and if de Bromhead can get Minella Indo to win that contest, on the back of what he has done so far over fences, then a large dollop of humble pie will be more than appropriate for this observer.

I’d imagine there was a fair drowning of sorrows on Sunday night after Willie Mullins’ ex-winning point-to-pointer, Power Of Pause, had been beaten in the afternoon in the bumper at Thurles.

I have to confess to knowing plenty regarding him and the notion he might be beaten was out of the question. Everything, however, is relative and backing horses at odds-on, no matter how big a certainty they are supposed to be, is not for this punter.

Power Of Pause never threatened to be on offer at anywhere near to evens and, at the off, was 30-100 to cope with nine opponents. On Betfair more than €400,000 was matched.

If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand that sort of wagering, but there are lots of punters prepared to play at very short-odds.

Power Of Pause travelled beautifully for the most part and was still hard on the bridle early in the straight.

The problem, of course, so was Liam Burke’s Coolbane Boy and he quickened past Power Of Pause in style to win going away by an easy three lengths and it was a further 13 lengths to the third, Mr Lingo.

It would be lovely to see Burke with a real good horse on his hands and what about Coolbane Boy’s rider, Tom Feeney.

I know nothing about him, but he did look accomplished, hitching his wagon in behind the canny Patrick Mullins, until deciding the time was right to pounce.

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