The seven-year-old looked another superstar in the making for the Willie Mullins team after winning each of his five starts as a novice over fences two seasons ago – a run which included a brilliant display in the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, having failed to rediscover that form in three underwhelming displays last term, Footpad was on something of a recovery mission on his reappearance in Count Tipperary – and did not disappoint on his return from a 252-day absence.
Watch a full replay of how Footpad shone on his return at Thurles
Sent off the 8-11 favourite, Footpad was settled in third for much of the two-mile-six-furlong journey by Daryl Jacob, as Jetz and the 2018 Ryanair Chase hero Balko Des Flos disputed the lead.
Footpad was always travelling and jumping with enthusiasm in behind and once given his head, he swept to the front with the minimum of fuss.
Mala Beach came from further back to try to throw down a challenge in the straight, but Footpad never looked in any danger of being caught and passed the post with 10 lengths in hand.
Jacob said: “It is lovely to see the horse back on the racetrack and he had plenty of enthusiasm and jumped and travelled very, very well. It’s a great starting point for him and he never missed a beat the whole way around.
“Today’s trip wasn’t a problem for him and ideally going a little bit quicker early doors would have suited him, but he is nice and fresh and it was good to see a performance like that this early in the year.
“It was mission accomplished today.”
Available at 33-1 for the King George VI Chase before the race, he is now tradng between 8-1 and 20-1 for the feature, with bookmakers seemingly uncertain which direction he will head in over the Christmas period.
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