Move over Winston C, Scorpiancer, Zanjabeel, Surprising Soul, Optimus Prime . . . you’ve got company coming. Footpad, a top-rated steeplechaser in England/Ireland, arrives in trainer Jack Fisher’s barn next week after a sale to owner Sonny Via.
Fisher and Via teamed up two win two Eclipse Awards and more than $1 million with Good Night Shirt, and hope for the same luck this time around.
“Sonny wanted another horse and he wants a horse that can run in the big races,” Fisher said Monday. “I wouldn’t necessarily buy a horse like this for someone new in the game, but if you want to be in the big races you need a horse like this.”
Trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, Footpad has won six over chase fences and another five over hurdles. In 2017-18, he won five consecutive races – including three Grade 1 novice chases. He won the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival by 14 lengths over (among others) 2019 American Grand National winner Brain Power and backed that up with a win in the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown over American Grade 1 winner Optimus Prime.
Footpad hasn’t quite been able to match that form since, but was third in the 2019 King George VI at Kempton in December, after opening the season with a win in a listed chase in November, and most recently was second in a Grade 2 chase at Thurles Jan. 19. All told, Footpad has won 11 races and earned £656,386. He’s rated 163 on the English handicap scale, 10 points above Brain Power.
“His form has dropped off over there, but it hasn’t dropped off that badly,” said Fisher. “He was third in the King George. That would win pretty much all of our races. It seemed like a good fit for Sonny.”
Footpad, a son of Creachadoir and the Sadler’s Wells mare Willamina, made two starts in his native France before joining the Mullins team in 2015. He won his Irish hurdle debut that November and added two more wins before finishing third in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2016. Footpad made three starts in France for Mullins in 2016 – including a Grade 1 win in June 2016 – and was fourth in the 2017 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Fisher will craft a plan for the now 8-year-old, whose main target will be the rich Grand National at Far Hills in October. A start in the 3-mile Iroquois in May isn’t out of the question.
“We’ll evaluate him when he gets here and make a decision,” said Fisher. “Where do I prep this horse if I want to make the Iroquois? I really don’t want to prep him in the Temple Gwathmey (a $100,000 handicap at Middleburg in April). That’s a problem. We’ll wait and see. I don’t think he’s a Saratoga horse. I think he’s a Far Hills horse.”
NOTES: Fisher’s Iroquois squad could include Scorpiancer, Moscato and Pravalaguna (who will likely turn up in the Gwathmey). Last year’s novice star Snap Decision will stick to that division for now.