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Arkle winner Footpad set to join other Mullins stars on Cheltenham sidelines

Footpad: taken out of three Cheltenham Festival races on Wednesday
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Footpad was a notable absentee at the latest acceptance stage for the non-novice Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 races on Wednesday, as the final fields for next month's meeting start to become clearer.

While many horses still hold multiple entries, 2018 Arkle winner Footpad looks to be a doubt for this year after he was scratched from the Betway Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle.

The eight-year-old's absence from the four-day fixture would be another blow for trainer Willie Mullins, who last week revealed three of his leading lights would not be travelling to Prestbury Park.

Two of those three, Klassical Dream and Saldier, were under consideration for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, but as expected were scratched on Wednesday.

Only five horses were taken out of the race at the latest stage, leaving a total of 31 entries for what looks a wide-open contest.

On Tuesday Philip Hobbs confirmed the Champion Chase over the Ryanair was the target for Defi Du Seuil, and the seven-year-old is a key contender in what could be the clash of the meeting should Altior and Chacun Pour Soi also line up.

Over half of the remaining entries for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup are trained in Ireland, with last year's winner Al Boum Photo heading 20 possibles.

Paisley Park is the one to beat in the Stayers' Hurdle, for which 29 contenders remain, while last year's Mares' Hurdle winner Roksana could also be back for more as 27 stood their ground for the race.

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E.W. Terms