Terrefort on track but 'Royal' ruled out
Footpad will not face a horse in the same silks as Willie Mullins' six-year-old bids to justify favouritism in next week's Arkle with connections ruling out classy novice chaser Sceau Royal from the Cheltenham Festival.
Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede were forced to scratch the Alan King-trained runner, which is four from five over fences this season, from next Tuesday's Grade One after a setback in training.
King outlined that no chances would be taken with Sceau Royal - a general fourth favourite at 6/1 - after picking up a "niggle" but a decision has yet to be made on whether or not he will run again this season.
"It is just a little niggle, but it is enough to stop us and it is a shame, but this is what happens with horses unfortunately and there is no point in hiding it," King explained.
"Simon (Munir) and Isaac's (Souede) vet will come down this week and have a look at him and we will discuss what to do then. Put it this way, we won't take any chances with him."
Connections were also forced to pour cold water over an alarming drift for Footpad (evens to 6/4) over the weekend but with all reported on course, he now heads the market (5/4) closely followed by Henry de Bromhead's dual Grade One-winning hurdler Petit Mouchoir (9/4) and soft-ground specialist Saint Calvados (7/2).
Munir and Souede are also leaning towards the JLT Chase with Terrefort, unbeaten over fences since joining Nicky Henderson, on Thursday week.
The Seven Barrows handler produced the novice chaser to win on his English debut at Huntingdon before taking Grade One glory at Sandown and racing manager Anthony Bromley expects the 8/1 shot to take his place in the 2m4f contest.
"He has been trained as if he could run in the JLT and I'd say he will most likely run. He has got an entry in the RSA, but he is only five and we don't want to stretch him too far at this stage of his career. I think he is a three-miler in the making for next season," he said.
"Nicky seems happy enough with him. He is already a Grade One winner this season and he deserves to take his chance and the ground looks like it will be on the easy side."
Elsewhere, trainer Anthony Honeyball is keen to step Ms Parfois up in trip to 4m for the National Hunt Chase provided conditions are suitable.
Uttoxeter's Midlands National on Saturday week is also on the agenda but Honeyball is favouring a Festival bid with the mare (16/1) after a fine second behind Black Corton in an Ascot Grade One last month.
"As long as the ground is in and around soft, she will run in the four-mile amateurs' chase and Will Biddick will ride her. He will come down and school her before the race," Honeyball said yesterday.
"The race looks tailor-made for her. She will get the trip well as she is relaxed in her races, plus she has won around Cheltenham. She has got a great deal of experience for a novice and you need that in the four-miler. I was quite confident she would win the Reynoldstown, but the ground was not soft enough to bring out her galloping nature, but she didn't run that badly."
A bold bid is also expected from stable-mate Acey Milan (8/1) as he bids for a fourth consecutive win in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
"He has been fantastic this season. His biggest test for me was last time against the all-age bumper horses at Newbury. He was very impressive that day and he is improving with each run.
"He has got good form around Cheltenham. The only thing was he had a hard enough race at Newbury and it was not that long ago, but he has come out of it very well as he has done in all of his races. He ticks a lot of boxes and we will have him very much tuned up and ready to go."