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Festival heroes Footpad and Balko Des Flos go head to head in Thursday thriller

Boomerang.ie Chase (Listed)| 2m6f | 5yo+ | RTV

Cheltenham Festival heroes Footpad and Balko Des Flos lock horns in a cracking clash at Thurles on Thursday, with both bidding to get their careers back on winning tracks.

Footpad's 2018 Punchestown festival success has been the only time either chaser has visited the winner's enclosure since their Cheltenham victories in the same year, with physical issues not allowing the pair to operate at their peak.

The return of Footpad will be the main talking point, with his stamina set to be tested on his first start after eight months off.

"We're excited to see him step up in trip over fences," said Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father Willie. 

"He had a good run over three miles over hurdles previously and he seems in good form at home."

We never got to see the best of the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned performer last term, with the star two-mile novice of the 2017-18 season suffering overreaches when falling at Naas and when second to Simply Ned at Leopardstown.

The six-time Grade 1 winner also broke blood vessels when finishing down the field behind Frodon in the Ryanair Chase as the 7-2 favourite when last seen.

"Last season didn't go as hoped," added Patrick Mullins. "This seems to be a good opportunity though and hopefully he can capitalise on it."

With this stamina test in mind, it could be worth remembering that Willie Mullins said he viewed Footpad as a horse with plenty of stamina who could be future Gold Cup contender after his Racing Post Arkle romp in 2018.

The race-fit Balko Des Flos should give him most to think about, with race conditions suiting the Henry de Bromhead-trained eight-year-old and Footpad. Neither carry penalties and receive 10lb from Grade 3 winner Jetz.

Sore shins and a lack of soft ground appeared to be the reasons we did not get to see the brilliant 2018 Ryanair Chase winner show his best last term but there were definite signs of life from the Gigginstown-owned performer when third to Kemboy at Aintree on his final start of the previous campaign.

That promise was not carried forward when running below par in the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown last month but the former Galway Plate winner was entitled to need the run.

Gigginstown's Eddie O'Leary said: "Henry seems to be happy with him and hopefully he can run well. There's plenty of rain in the forecast but it will be welcomed."

Jessica Harrington's Jetz, who won the Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novice Chase last season, looks to have a tough task on ratings, required to give at least 10lb to the field, while rated 20lb and 18lb inferior to Footpad and Balko Des Flos respectively.

Mala Beach, a former Grade 2-winning hurdler and the 2017 Troytown Chase victor, takes an unorthodox route to this Listed contest having won between the flags at Damma House earlier this month.

Margaret Flynn's Oh Me Oh My has a mountain to climb on figures and will likely be aiming to pick up further black type.

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