Footpad in flying form ahead of Arkle tilt

Cheltenham Racecourse.

Connections of Footpad feel it will take a good horse to lower his colours in today’s Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase.

Having produced three near faultless displays since being sent chasing, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old, who finished fourth in last year’s Champion Hurdle, is expected to prove tough to beat at Cheltenham in his quest for a hat-trick of Grade One victories this season.

Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “It should be a fabulous race and with Saint Calvados there should be a lot of pace.

“Our horse handles the soft ground and stays further than two (miles) and touch wood looks a very natural jumper. He is in great form at home and will be very hard to beat. We are versatile regarding tactics as well.

He was just below top class as a hurdler, but he jumps fences so well and has improved enormously over them. He has had a nice prep and he could be top class over fences.

Henry De Bromhead remains optimistic Petit Mouchoir can turn the tables on Footpad, having finished second behind him in last month’s Irish Arkle at Leopardstown.

He said: “He was very fresh in the ring in Leopardstown and we had to actually pull him out of the ring before they went out.

“He was just a bit fresh and forward-going for those first couple of fences and made a couple of stupid mistakes, but I thought his jumping was brilliant after that and Davy (Russell) was happy.

One thing we do know is over hurdles we were fortunate enough to beat Footpad a few times. There are plenty of other horses in the race as well, but obviously he’s the hot favourite.

“I’m sure we have a chance of turning the form around, but we’ll see.”

Fronting the English challenge is Grade Two winner Saint Calvados, who will be bidding to give trainer Harry Whittington his first winner at the meeting.

He said: “I’m very pleased with him and his work has been excellent. He looks fantastic and he seems to be thriving. He is a joy to train and looks to have improved again for the Kingmaker.

“He’s very well and I couldn’t be happier with him. Everything is done now.

“He schooled brilliantly on Thursday under Aidan Coleman, so it’s all systems go.”

Nicky Henderson fears soft ground may compromise the chance of Brain Power getting back to winning ways and providing him with a seventh victory in the race he has won previously with the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Altior.

“The ground would be a concern,” Henderson conceded.

“I’d be hopeful. He will love the pace of the race and that will is the one thing he will have in his favour.”

The field is completed by the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Robinshill.

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