Footpad cruises to Arkle Challenge Trophy win
Footpad ran out a dominant winner of the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase at Cheltenham.
Unbeaten in three previous starts over fences, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was the 5-6 favourite, ridden by Ruby Walsh.
His old rival Petit Mouchoir and the main British hope Saint Calvados set a scorching gallop, with Walsh happy to sit in third aboard Footpad.
The market leader made one serious error in the back straight but steadily closed on Petit Mouchoir thereafter, with Saint Calvados ultimately fading tamely.
There was little to choose between the big two jumping the second fence from the finish, but it was clear Footpad had much more to give and he powered clear in the straight for a 14-length success.
Brain Power finished well to beat Petit Mouchoir to the runner-up spot.
Walsh said: "It sent the hairs down the back of my neck
"He was brilliant. I can't say I was confident when we landed at the back of the first down the back, but I was kicking myself I went too fast in the first and thought they can't keep going and would come back.
"I was kind of happy going the pace I was going - I didn't want them getting any further away from me, you can make it on this ground but you have to do it on your terms, not the horse's terms.
"I was probably in front too early, but I was worried about Davy (Russell on Petit Mouchoir) getting too much of a breather down the hill, so I wanted to keep the pressure on him a little bit.
"He jumped super, bar the first down the back. He was very long, I wanted to pop it and he wanted to come. I thought it was too early for that, but he was very good at the second-last, pinged the last and galloped all the way to the line.
"His performance was reflective of his homework, he was too free in last year's Champion Hurdle and I always thought I'd have finished third in that race had I got him to settle. It was a good performance.
"Thanks to connections for letting me back on him and it's great to be here.
"It's been a long old winter and this makes it worth it."
He added: "The way he stayed as a four-year-old would suggest he'd be able to go further (than two miles). He has brains, pace and stamina."