Footpad out to improve Mullins record in race won by Don Cossack and Sizing John
Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase (Grade 2) | 2m4½f | 6yo+ | RTV
Willie Mullins has found an ideal opportunity for King George third Footpad to make it two wins from three starts this season in the race formerly known as the Kinloch Brae Chase and won by Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes Don Cossack and Sizing John in recent years.
If the Grade 2 was a handicap the former top-notch novice chaser would have to give 4lb to Grade 1 scorer Hardline and 5lb to talented stablemate Real Steel, but instead the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned eight-year-old receives 7lb and 5lb from those rivals.
The Irish champion trainer is triple-handed but the race has not always been kind to the Closutton camp.
With the exception of Apt Approach's 2012 success, Mullins has been out of luck on the 15 other occasions he has had runners – saddling the beaten favourite or second favourite nine times.
This looks an excellent chance to improve that record, with his 165-rated favourite dropping back to 2m4½f after seemingly not staying 3m when third to Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton.
Daryl Jacob missed out on the ride due to breaking his hand in a fall at Musselburgh last month but renews his partnership with the six-time Grade 1 winner.
His biggest threat could be John Durkan Chase second Hardline, who has since fallen when held behind A Plus Tard over shorter than ideal at Leopardstown.
Impressive Down Royal scorer Real Steel is two from two at Thurles and showed his wellbeing when finishing a fine fourth in the John Durkan.
Paul Townend sides with him instead of last season's Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase winner Voix Du Reve, who ran disappointingly behind Al Boum Photo at Tramore this month. Jessica Harrington's Jetz completes the quintet but looks up against it on all known form.
Fresh from being crowned Meath Sports Person of the Year on Friday, Gordon Elliott can join Arthur Moore as the most successful trainer in the history of the Kinloch Brae Chase with four wins if Hardline comes home in front.
What they say
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Hardline
It's a good race but he seems to be in good form and this trip should be right up his street after running over shorter last time at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins, trainer of Footpad, Real Steel and Voix Du Reve
Footpad is the highest-rated horse in the race and the conditions give him an outstanding chance. Real Steel ran well when fourth behind Min in the John Durkan last month and if he improves on that effort he should give a good account. Voix Du Reve ran no sort of race behind Al Boum Photo at Tramore. He ran in snatches and we're just hoping for a better effort from him. The ground won't be as testing as last time and that should help.
Daryl Jacob, rider of Footpad
He ran well at Kempton and it just appeared he didn't quite stay the trip. This is over two and a half miles and in calmer waters again so he looks to be going there with a nice chance. The conditions of the race look ideal and everyone is happy with him.
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