Fabulous Footpad: star chaser faces rematch with Saint Calvados
If last weekend’s action at Down Royal whetted the appetite for the upcoming season, then Saturday’s card at Naas is sure to send the tastebuds of jumps fans into a tizzy, with Footpad taking his first steps as a second-season chaser.
A winner of four Grade 1 novice chases last season, which featured a tremendous performance in the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham, Footpad has been transformed since being sent over fences and will take all the beating under Ruby Walsh on his seasonal reappearance.
"Footpad seems to be well, he schooled well and he worked very well during the week so we're looking forward to starting him off at Naas," said trainer Willie Mullins.
Mullins has won two of the last five renewals of the race – with Devils Bride in 2015 and Twinlight in 2013 – and Footpad will be bidding to pick up from where he left off last season for rampant owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
"The Poplar Square Chase is a nice type of race for Footpad and it’s nice to get him out and back on the track," added Mullins. "A second-season novice race like this is a lovely starting point."
His chief rival is the Harry Whittington-trained Saint Calvados, who is rated 8lb inferior to the odds-on favourite.
Saint Calvados showed smart form last season when winning a Grade 2 novice chase at Warwick, but was no match for Footpad in the Arkle, and connections are hopeful rather than confident of causing a surprise.
Whittington said: "The plan was the Haldon Gold Cup but the rain didn't come in time. He needs some cut in the ground and the conditions of this race looked ideal – until a certain horse called Footpad was declared!"
He continued: "He's fit and well and ready to go. He's improved beyond recognition for a summer break and has strengthened up enormously.
"We need to get his season started off and it makes sense to come here as there's a good four-week break between this and the Tingle Creek. We're looking forward to it."
The field is completed by Tycoon Prince and Arkwrisht, who are owned by Gigginstown House Stud, and the Keith Watson-trained Blue Empyrean.
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