Willie Mullins confirmed last night that Footpad is likely to head for Aintree after being taken out out of the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
The six-year-old extended his unbeaten record over fences to four with a brilliant display in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham earlier this month and was in contention to make a swift reappearance in the Grade One feature on Easter Sunday.
However, he did not appear among the confirmations at lunchtime yesterday and is instead poised to head to Merseyside next month.
He is set to have the option of running in either the two-and-a-half-mile Manifesto Novices’ Chase on April 12 or the Maghull Novices’ Chase over two miles on Grand National day on April 14.
Mullins said “He is likely to go to Aintree. He’ll probably be entered in the two races but I would imagine it will be the two-mile race.”
Despite Footpad’s absence, Mullins was responsible for eight of the 15 horses in the Ryanair Gold Cup.
The champion trainer’s contenders include Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only and course winners Kemboy and Saturnas.
A five-strong team for Gordon Elliott includes Cheltenham Festival winners Shattered Love and The Storyteller.
Shattered Love won the JLT Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park, while The Storyteller landed the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.
Tombstone, Tycoon Prince and Dinaria Des Obeaux are the other Elliott hopefuls.
All of Elliott’s contenders bar The Storyteller carry the colours of Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud and he has a fifth potential runner in Arkle Trophy third Petit Mouchoir, trained by Henry de Bromhead.
Snow Falcon from Noel Meade’s yard completes the list. The Mullins-trained Laurina is the star name among 14 possible runners in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.
The five-year-old was a brilliant winner of the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and would undoubtedly be a warm order if stepping up to Grade One level this weekend.
A six-strong Mullins team also includes Salsaretta, while Elliott looks set to rely on recent Grade Three victor Lackaneen Leader.
Dan Skelton’s Momella and Emma Lavelle’s Woolstone One are potential British challengers.
A strong card also features the Grade Two Easter Festival Novice Hurdle. Getabird could bid to bounce back from a disappointing run when favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, while Mullins has also entered Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle third Next Destination, among several others.
Elliott is also well represented, with his entry including Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle victor Blow By Blow.
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