Flawless Footpad among quality entries as jump racing returns to Naas this weekend

Six time Grade 1 winner Footpad is the standout name on a stellar list of entries for Saturday’s opening National Hunt fixture of the season at Naas. Last season’s Arkle Trophy winner is just one of a notable team of entries for champion trainer Willie Mullins who has six individual Grade 1 winners entered for Saturday’s fixture. Footpad could potentially put his unbeaten record over fences on the line in the Grade 3 Popular Square Chase, a race which also may prove to be the starting point for Harry Whittington’s stable star Saint Calvados. The Oxfordshire-based trainer had planned on starting Saint Calvados at Exeter this afternoon but aborted those plans due to quick ground and a first trip to Naas could be on the cards for the trainer. “Our main target was to run in the Haldon Gold Cup today but we didn’t get any rain so we had to look elsewhere,” said Alice Whittington, wife and assistant to the trainer. “We had a look at the Popular Square Chase and when it reopened for entries we said we’d have a closer look as it is a race for second season novices and that’s not a type of race we have a lot of in England,” Whittington added. “It could be a good starting point. We have also put him in Navan and we’ll see how the races are shaping up.” “Rain is the ultimate thing we need with him and thankfully there rain forecast for later in the week so we’ll be making every plan to travel and see what happens. We all know he is better than what he showed us at Cheltenham last year. He’s obviously a horse with loads of class and as a five-year-old he has the world at his feet. He’s done really well over the summer and is ready to go again this season.” Grade 1 winners Mr Adjudicator and Saldier are joined by stable companion Stormy Ireland for the Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle but the Mullins trio could again face stiff opposition there with Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas given an entry by Gordon Elliott. Another interesting inclusion in the two-mile hurdle is Gavin Cromwell’s Grade 2 winner Espoir D’allen who is on course to return to action for the first time since February. “Saturday’s Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas looked an obvious starting point,” Cromwell said. “Espoir D’allen seems to be in good nick and has summered well and I’d be hopeful of a big run. It is shaping up to be a very hot race but we’ll know where we stand after Saturday, the trip and the ground would look perfect for him.” Other marquee names potentially making their seasonal reappearances at Naas on Saturday include the Champion Bumper winner Relegate who has entries in both maiden hurdles, while Grade 1 winners Bacardys and Champagne Classic could clash in the Mogney Communications Beginners Chase. Eight time Grade 1 winner and 2014 Champion Hurdle hero Jezki is the stand out name in the Grade B Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle.

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