Pat Keane.


A horse without flaws? Footpad looks simply fabulous

There were many treats over the last four days in Ireland and Britain, but for me the biggest star to emerge was Willie Mullins’ Footpad in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown on Tuesday, writes Pat Keane.

A horse without flaws? Footpad looks simply fabulous

This was as near to perfection as it gets and it is surely no exaggeration to say that here is a horse who was simply born to jump fences.

Mind you, Footpad’s pedigree would certainly indicate that was not the case. I would be a long way removed from being any sort of expert when it comes to breeding, but even I can work out the horse arrived in this world to do something more exotic than flying across a series of major obstacles.

He is by Creachadoir, out of a mare by Sadler’s Wells, and might have been expected to make his mark on the flat. But he never even ran on the flat.

Creachador was an admirable sort on the level, winning on four occasions. He ran six times for Saeed Bin Suroor and had nine outings when in the care of Jim Bolger.

The first race he ever won was for Bolger when landing a Group 3 over a mile at Leopardstown in April of 2007.

He grabbed a second Group 3 for Bolger the following month when easily taking the seven furlongs Tetrarch Stakes at the Curragh.

Creachadoir also won two races for Bin Suroor, a Group 3 at Newmarket, prior to enjoying his biggest day when taking the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Essentially, he was a high-class miler, with a good attitude and plenty of speed and durability. Footpad has clearly inherited a lot of his traits.

To describe what Footpad did at Leopardstown this week as spectacular almost qualifies as an understatement.

As of now he shapes as a horse without flaws. His jumping was swift and seriously accurate and as straight as the proverbial gun barrel.

It is still a fair way to the Cheltenham festival, but he already can’t be opposed in the Arkle Trophy. Loads of jumping and two miles around there is the ideal scenario to showcase Footpad’s talents.

He stays much further than the minimum trip and has buckets of boot to go with it. Hopefully, he will stay sound for a very long time and enjoy more luck than two other magnificent horses produced by Mullins over the last few years in Vautour and Douvan.

While Footpad was emphasising what a great talent he is at Leopardstown his main market rival, Death Duty, completely blew out.

His form over flights last season deteriorated as the campaign progressed and he was a costly failure at Cheltenham. Excuses were offered, but they are beginning to wear somewhat thin now. He did most things right on Tuesday for Davy Russell, jumped and travelled really well.

But when Russell asked him to go and close down Footpad, coming away from the second last, Death Duty found disappointingly little and was legless when falling at the final fence.

He is still good, of course, but seems more than flattered by a rating of 159. The rising seven-year-old is just not going to be a top horse.

IT would have been some own goal had the stewards failed to reverse the placings, after Min had beaten English challenger, Simply Ned, in a Grade 1 chase at Leopardstown on Wednesday.

This was an open and shut case and the only surprise was that it took so long for the inevitable conclusion to be reached.

Min impeded Simply Ned twice on the run in and the interference was especially bad near the line, when the runner-up was forced onto the rails.

There was a time in Ireland when the result might have stood, on the basis the stewards couldn’t be sure the winner had improved his placing, but thankfully those days appear to be long gone.

We have argued here before that this is the only sport where the benefit of the doubt is given to the sinner, rather than the sinned against, or at least that’s the way it used to be.

Min did the crime and had to be made pay the ultimate price. His rider, Paul Townend, was rightly suspended for two days for careless riding, after failing to pull his whip through to his left hand on the run in.

Many years ago, as a kid, I saw the local boxer in my village have the face pucked off him for three rounds and then, inexplicably, get the verdict.

If Min had kept the race on Tuesday, that would have represented the biggest hometown decision since that less than memorable boxing night.

THE English press, or at least some of them, have been raving this week about the performances of the Nicky Henderson pair, Might Bite, and Buveur D’Air, at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.

I am not convinced, however, that either exactly enhanced their Cheltenham claims with these displays.

Might Bite took the King George in workmanlike fashion, but can we really envisage him as a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner?

He beat Double Shuffle, rated 14lbs inferior, by a hard-earned length and does that form amount to a hill of beans?

That said, the rather surprising success of Road To Respect at Leopardstown on Thursday has seen this Gold Cup develop into a real lottery!

Buveur D’Air, the reigning champion hurdler, did all that was required to beat The New One by a snug enough two and quarter lengths in the Christmas Hurdle and is now unbeaten in eight races. But it was no more than an adequate success and as good and all as Buveur D’air was in the Champion hurdle it was a contest that lacked real depth, even if Footpad, waiting to be launched on his true path, was fourth.

I WAS a big fan of Gavin Cromwell’s juvenile hurdler, Espoir D’Allen, heading to Leopardstown, but was a bit disappointed with his victory in a Grade 2.

He won cosily, by a length and a quarter from the jumping debutant, Farclas, but I was just expecting a bit more swagger and style.

A horse for the future is surely the Willie Mullins-trained Carefully Selected, who took a two and a half-mile bumper at Leopardstown on Wednesday.

The ex-winning point-to-pointer is reportedly a terrific jumper, although we will have to wait for next season to see him over flights.

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