Mullins ponders options for Footpad’s planned return to action at Navan
English trainer Whittington planning an Irish raid with Saint Calvados
Ruby Walsh celebrates on Footpad after winning the Arkle Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Reuters
With Douvan out for the season the focus is likely to increase on another of Willie Mullins’s star chasers Footpad who could make his return to action this weekend.
Unbeaten in five novice starts over fences, Footpad has been given a pair of weekend entries over two miles by the champion trainer.
The prolific Grade One scorer – a 10-1 shot for the King George VI Chase at Christmas – is among 11 left in Saturday’s Grade Three Poplar Square Chase at Naas. He is also one of ten left in the Grade Two Fortria Chase at Navan a day later.
Injury meant Ruby Walsh rode Footpad only once last season when landing the Arkle at Cheltenham but the jockey could team up again with the versatile star.
“We’re thinking about stepping him up in trip at some stage during the season. Whether he’ll run on Saturday or not I don’t know but it’s a two mile chase for first and second season novices so it’s as good a place as any,” he reported.
“We’ll see how he is on Thursday before deciding. We’ve been happy with him at home but at this time of year most connections are. Until you get out on the track you don’t really know,” he added.
An eyecatching entry for the same two races is the English-trained Saint Calvados who could come to Ireland in pursuit of softer going.
“Rain is the ultimate thing we need with him and thankfully rain is forecast for later in the week so we’ll be making every plan to travel,” said trainer Charlie Whittington’s wife and assistant, Alice.
“We all know he is better than he showed at Cheltenham last year. He’s a horse with loads of class and as a five year old has the world at his feet. He’s done really well over the summer and is ready to go again,” she added.
Navan’s other Grade Two on Sunday, the Lismullen Hurdle, may see the reappearance of Gigginstown Stud’s hugely popular mare, Apple’s Jade. She is one of ten left in the two and a half mile contest after Tuesday’s forfeit stage.
On Wednesday night Dundalk begins its eighth ‘Winter Season’ with Michael Halford sure to figure prominently as he tries to top the prize money list for a seventh time.
Halford has three runners on Wednesday although John Oxx could have better luck with his sole starter, She’s My Dream, in the Nursery.