Mullins pair lead strong Irish challenge in Ryanair

Footpad is one of 12 declared runners in the Ryanair Chase

Stable companions Footpad and Un De Sceaux are among 12 horses declared for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

Footpad was the undoubted star of the two-mile novice chasing division last season – winning each of his five starts, including the Arkle Trophy at Prestbury Park last March.

The current campaign has not gone to plan thus far – with the seven-year-old falling on his seasonal debut at Naas before being mowed down late by Simply Ned at Leopardstown over Christmas – but he is still the clear favourite for Thursday’s two-mile-five-furlong Grade One.

Willie Mullins also runs the admirable Un De Sceaux – winner of this race in 2017 but beaten at odds-on by Balko Des Flos in last year’s renewal.

Balko Des Flos is back to defend his crown as one of three runners for Henry de Bromhead – the others being recent Red Mills Chase winner Monalee and outsider Sub Lieutenant.

Road To Respect is a leading contender for Noel Meade after connections elected against a second tilt at the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup – in which he finished fourth last year.

Eddie Harty’s Coney Island and Gordon Elliott’s The Storyteller complete a formidable Irish challenge.

The home team is made up of the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon, Venetia Williams’ Aso, Nicky Henderson’s Terrefort and Charbel from Kim Bailey’s yard.