Footpad tightens grip on Arkle market with another smooth success

Footpad, who created a huge impression on his debut over fences at Navan last month, confirmed that promise to cement his position as favourite for the Racing Post Arkle when storming to an 11-length victory in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase.

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old is now a best-priced 2-1 favourite (from 4) for the Arkle, and few would begrudge him his place at the head of the market.

Mullins, who was winning this novice event for the fifth time in seven years, intends bringing Footpad back to Leopardstown for the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase on February 3 before heading for Cheltenham.

He said: "The Leopardstown race fits in nicely time-wise before Cheltenham and looks the obvious race for Footpad."

The outcome was never really in doubt from three out as Isaac Souede and Simon Munir's very talented performer continued to pour it on amid a fine display of jumping.

Footpad had the unbeaten three-time chase winner Death Duty – a Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse on his previous start – struggling before two out and that rival was well beaten in third place when falling at the final fence.

The Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now picked up the pieces to take the runner-up spot – his third consecutive second-place finish – but he was no match for Footpad, who was justifying 4-6 favouritism under Paul Townend.

Mullins said: "The first time we schooled Footpad over fences he was electric, and he was electric at Navan and again today.

"He absolutely loves jumping and again gained lengths at his fences today. He improved from Navan, as we thought he would, and is a very exciting novice."

In winning this race Footpad followed in the footsteps of two other star Mullins jumpers – Douvan, who won the race in 2015, and 2016 winner Min, who will be in Grade 1 action at Leopardstown on Wednesday.

Davy Russell, rider of Death Duty, reflected: "I've no real excuses. The winner is a very good horse and we just weren't able to match him. Although Death Duty fell at the last he had jumped well until then. But I have no excuses."

Jack Kennedy was shaken when Avenir D'Une Vie, who was leading at the time, blundered badly and fired him out of the saddle at the fifth fence.

Kennedy missed the winning ride on Tisamystery in the 2m1f handicap chase, with Liam Quinlan deputising.