Flawless Footpad could step up in trip and take in King George at Christmas
The King George is under strong consideration for Footpad with Willie Mullins keen to try three miles over fences with the runaway Racing Post Arkle winner, although his season will commence over two miles and he will then proceed to work his way up in trip.
Footpad has been flawless over fences, winning all five of his chase outings by a total of 53 and his 14-length demolition of Brain Power in the Arkle stamped him down as a leading fancy for this season's Queen Mother Champion Chase for which he is no bigger than 7-2 for with only Altior ahead of him in the market.
Mullins has yet to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, though, so perhaps Footpad could be the horse to end his hoodoo. It is worth remembering he was third to Unowhatimeanharry over three miles at the 2017 Punchestown festival.
Mullins said: "Footpad can do anything from two miles to three. I am thinking that we will start him off over two miles and then let him out to two and a half and it is a possibility that we will stretch him out to three miles at Christmas for the King George.
"When we started schooling him this time last year we thought he would be a staying novice chaser. We think he stays but he is such a good jumper that he is able to beat the two-milers. He is top, top class no matter what trip he goes."
Ladbrokes greeted Mullins' update on Footpad by shortening him into 8-1 from 10-1 for the King George at Kempton.
Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: "Footpad had a tremendous season last year and we are expecting much of the same again. With the King George a target, we've instantly cut his odds for the race. He is 8-1 now but could go off much shorter."
Bellshill did not appear until late February last season but he quickly made up for lost time.
He won the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse before returning there for the Irish Grand National where he was a close-up fifth having clambered over the last. Twenty-three days later he landed the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup and now Mullins believes he is a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender.
"I am going to try to make a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse out of Bellshill this year. He is a very good horse on his day," Mullins said.
There are others who could join him.
"We are going to stick to three miles over fences with Yorkhill this year. I still think he has plenty to offer and hopefully we can get the best out of him. Al Boum Photo is a staying chaser with lots of ability. He could be a Gold Cup horse too, if not this year then maybe the following year," Mullins said.
The reliable Un De Sceaux is reported to be as enthusiastic as ever by Mullins with a similar campaign to last season mapped out for the exuberant front-runner.
"Un De Sceaux has come back very strong, he's huge. He is still the same Un De Sceaux. He dropped his rider earlier on!" Mullins said.
"I would imagine he will be following the same path as last year. We skipped the Tingle Creek and went to Cork for the Hilly Way and I think he will do the same this season too. He will be entered in the two races and we will decide which way he will go nearer the time."
With regard to novice chasers, Next Destination, Getabird and Draconien are set to lead the Closutton charge.
"Next Destination definitely goes over fences. He looks every inch a chaser and he is one that I am very much looking forward to," Mullins said.
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