Footpad could run at the Cheltenham Festival next month without any back shoes on.
Willie Mullins said on Wednesday he has yet to decide whether last year’s runaway Arkle winner will clash with Altior in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase or step up in trip for the Ryanair Chase 24 hours later.
But he did reveal toying with the idea of leaving off footwear in an attempt to prevent the seven-year-old suffering a third over-reach this season.
Watch how Footpad won the Arkle last year
Footpad suffered one when disappointing on his reappearance at Naas on November and did so again after finishing runner-up in a Grade One contest at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Over-reaches occur when the hind legs strike the front limbs. Sometimes it can be caused by a thoroughbred’s gait or conformation and, naturally, the injury sustained can be worse when wearing shoes.
The BHA originally said all runners in jumps races would have be fully shod for safety reasons from February 1. However, the controversial regulation, criticised by some trainers, has been suspended for six months while a further review takes place - leaving the option open to Mullins.
“It has been a frustrating season with Footpad,” Mulins said. “He’s had two over-reaches, but we schooled him the other day with no back shoes on, and I was very happy with that.
“I’ve left the back shoes off since his last run, so that’s an option. You don’t need them.”
He added: “Footpad schooled very well the other day in Navan – he schooled a lot more like the old Footpad from last year. I hope that’s a sign that he’s starting to find his form.
“I don’t think he’d have any problem stepping up in trip, but we’ll see where we are nearer the time."
Mullins also has to determine between the Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase for Min and Un De Sceaux.
“Min could go Champion Chase or Ryanair, and I’m going to leave that decision until much closer to the time," he said
“Obviously Altior is the one to beat in the Champion Chase if he turns up on the day. Things can happen, and horses might not turn up.
“We’ll have one if not two to take him on. You can’t be afraid of one horse. We’ll keep him straight if nothing else!
“Where Min goes will depend on what everyone else is doing, what the ground is like and what Ruby (Walsh) wants to ride. There’ll be a lot of different things we’ll take into consideration.”
Yard favourite Un De Sceaux skipped a second clash this season with Altior recently, but Mullins is delighted with his current wellbeing.
“He just hasn’t had the ground he wants this season – and probably needs, as he gets older,” he said.
“He has the same enthusiasm that he’s always had. He’s in particularly good form this week. He did a bit of work yesterday, and it was probably the best bit of work he’s done all year.
“He just seems to be coming right at the right time again. If the ground came up very heavy, and some horses didn’t turn up in other races, then who knows – but I would imagine it will be the Ryanair for him.”
Mullins has raised a doubt about his Racing Post Arkle hopeful Cilaos Emery making it to the Festival.
The seven-year-old, impressive on his only start over fences to date, subsequently pulled a muscle when schooling.
As a result, Mullins predicts the next seven days will have a huge bearing over whether he makes it to Cheltenham or not.
“He pulled a muscle schooling in Navan the other day. That’s why you didn’t see him this morning,” Mullins told assembled press at his yard.
“We’ll have to wait and see how he’s going to come out of it. If he doesn’t come out of it in the next seven days, then I think we might have to draw stumps for Cheltenham.
“That’s a disappointment, but when you school them you take your chance.”