I thought it was terrific that Willie Mullins’ immediate reaction, after Footpad had taken the Arkle Trophy by half the track at Cheltenham on Tuesday, was to consider stretching out the six-year-old with a view to challenging for next year’s Gold Cup.
Perhaps, when the dust has settled and Mullins has a good think about it, he may well change his mind, but at least we can dream in the short term.
I’d be a long way removed from being any sort of expert when it comes to breeding, but it does strike one that Footpad is something of a freak of nature. He is out of a now 19-year- old mare called Willamina, who was trained in France by the relatively recently retired, Criquette Head-Maarek.
Willamina was rather moderate, failing to win in six outings in 2002. She was choicely bred, however, being by the superb Sadler’s Wells, while her dam, Animatrice, was by the dual Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe winner, Alleged.
Footpad’s sire is Creachadoir, who was trained on the flat, firstly by Jim Bolger and then Saeed bin Suroor.
Successful four times on the level, he never won beyond a mile, enjoying his best day when landing the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in 2008.
It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that Footpad was hardly bred with jumping fences in mind, but that is clearly what he was born to do.
Interestingly, he didn’t run on the flat, starting off in two races over flights at Auteuil, before winning his maiden for Mullins at Gowran Park in November of 2015.
Footpad then progressed to be a more than useful hurdler, but never really hinted was capable of ever developing into any sort of superstar at that game.
Since being launched over fences, however, the racing world simply views the horse in an entirely different light and that stroll around Prestbury Park four days ago saw him unbeaten in four races over fences. He made a bad blunder at the sixth, the first mistake of his life as a chaser, and, as George Hamilton might have been moved to say, “a nation held its breath.’’
Because, have no doubt about it, had Footpad departed the scene, punters all over our fair country would have been deprived of many thousands of euro. And, in the circumstances, just how good was the unbelievably unfortunate Ruby Walsh, to have the balls to sit and suffer for so long, fresh from serious long-term injury.
For him to return to Cheltenham on Wednesday, with the racing world literally at his feet one more time, and then suffer yet another injury, was deeply disappointing and upsetting.
There will never, ever be a jockey like him again, a man who literally has ice running through his veins.
Walsh is a national treasure and the game will be all the poorer when he retires, which, age-wise, is now inevitable, sooner rather than later.
Anyway, back to Footpad and his prospects of getting three and a quarter-miles plus in a Gold Cup.
On what we know to date the odds are against him.
For instance, the furthest he has ever won over hurdles is two miles and three and a half furlongs. At the Punchestown festival last year he contested a three-mile Grade 1 and clearly seemed to fail to stay when a remote third behind Uknowhatimeanharry and Nichols Canyon. But he was only five then and if anyone can get him to defy logic it is surely maestro Mullins, who again showcased his extraordinary talent this week. It will be fascinating to await developments.
WELL, Samcro may not quite qualify as the second coming, but he’s some talent all of the same, on the basis of what he achieved in the Ballymore Novices ’Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
Basically, he won this with lots in hand, although I have a feeling wasn’t anywhere near his best and is capable of a lot more. He did step right into the third and, shortly after, then seemed to take a false step on the flat, crossing a road on the track.
Those things could easily have unnerved a horse with less ability, but he managed to shrug it all off and, like Footpad, his success was surely a big help to the bank balance of the odd punter or two!
DAVY Russell, like Ruby Walsh, is now very much at the veteran stage and I have no idea whether thoughts of retirement ever cross his mind.
If they do then I’d say they have been despatched to the back-burner fairly rapidly, in the light of that majestic performance by Presenting Percy in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase on Wednesday.
In my innocence, I fancied Monalee, but was left open-mouthed in the closing stages as Russell and Presenting Percy breezed past.
Twice now Presenting Percy has gone to the festival and twice he’s delivered. He travels, jumps and finds when asked to go about his business. The seven-year- old has Cheltenham Gold Cup candidate 2019 written all over him.
Also, on Wednesday, of course, Douvan took a crashing fall four out in the Champion Chase won by Altior. Up to that point it was like watching the old Douvan and his departure left us none the wiser as to how much of the great horse actually remains intact.
I CAN’T imagine the Racing Post is a massive seller in Ireland, not at €3.50 a time, and so expect that much of what appears in the paper wouldn’t be generally known, unless given away for free on line.
On that basis it is worth mentioning a little segment that appeared in last Sunday’s edition, in a question and answer session with trainer, Noel Meade.
I certainly got a kick out of it. Meade was asked: What is the strangest-funniest thing you have seen on a racecourse?
Meade takes up the story: Paul Carberry rode a horse at Kilbeggan one day and it ran very badly. As he dismounted, I was standing there with the owner waiting for the debrief. Paul pulled the saddle off slowly, turned around and said: “He made a noise.’’ I asked what sort of noise, to which Paul replied: “It sounded like ‘wait for me.’
WHEN the excellent, and appropriately named, Nick Luck, was ending RUK’s coverage of Cheltenham on Thursday he signed off with the following. Said Luck: “The luck of the Irish, they’ve won six of the seven races today, will win the Grand Slam on Saturday and are still in the EU.’’ Perfect, just perfect.
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