Footpad out to pass first test as Mullins unleashes big guns for jumps season
The Irish jumps season is back with a bang today and Footpad is the star turn at Naas as Willie Mullins's exciting chaser takes his first tentative steps towards a possible tilt at next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Footpad oozed class over fences last season and bids to extend his unbeaten streak to six in the Grade Three Poplar Square Chase (12.30) over 2m before stepping up in trip with Kempton's King George a potential target.
With Mullins beaming after a spectacular piece of work earlier this week, the four-time Grade One-winning chaser should account for his four rivals.
Odds of 1/4 should be steered clear of, however, and he may be asked some questions by English raider Saint Calvados.
Espoir D'Allen was well touted before disappointing at the Dublin Racing Festival so the performance of Gavin Cromwell's four-year-old should be noted in the Grade Three Fishery Lane Hurdle (1.05).
Mullins is double-handed with Ruby Walsh aboard Saldier and Paul Townend on Mr Adjudicator, however, and with Saldier touted as a future champion hurdler he is expected to get the job done here.
Noel Meade is sweet on the potential of School Boy Hours and his jumping experience could be crucial in the maiden hurdle (1.40) while the most valuable prize at the Kildare track is the ultra-competitive €50,000 Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle (2.50).
It is a bit of a riddle with five JP McManus-owned runners engaged. Paul Nolan's Fitzhenry is respected towards the bottom of the weights, but another runner from the Wexford trainer may prove best and the progressive Rooster Byron can bring up a four-timer for Bryan Cooper.
The card is opened by the hurdling debut of Joseph O'Brien's Rhinestone - second in a Grade Two Dublin Racing Festival bumper - but the 22-runner maiden hurdle (12.0) is a bit of a lottery.
The jumping feast continues tomorrow at Navan where the return of Apple's Jade in the Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle (1.35) is the headline act.
Gordon Elliott's mare may be worth taking on at short odds with the Meath trainer admitting that his string are a few weeks away from their best.
It could pay to side with Henry de Bromhead's Identify Thief against last year's winner with the Waterford trainer in superb form.
Identity Thief put his best foot forward last season - including a bloodless Grade One victory at Aintree - and it could pay to side with Gigginstown's eight-year-old.
The Grade Two Fortria Chase (2.10) will have plenty of pointers for chasers to follow and Enda Bolger's Ballyoisin is already on many shortlists after impressing in the summer.
Elliott's Doctor Phoenix - one of the most improved horses in training last season - and De Bromhead's Ordinary World are both rated as dangers but the race-fit Ballyoisin is expected to continue his upward trajectory.
The Grade Three For Auction Novice Hurdle (1.05) is not short of classy contenders but Elliott's Felix Desjy looks well above average based on his Galway win and can fend off some smart sorts.
Flat followers must rise early this morning to see if Irish Derby hero Latrobe can land another major coup for O'Brien Down Under in the Group One Mackinnon Stakes (5.55) at Flemington.
Without a run since heading to Australia, Latrobe is likely to find Blair House too good as Charlie Appleby bids to add to his Melbourne Cup success.
The earlier Group One Sprint Classic (5.10) sees Joseph's father Aidan run a quartet of runners and Spirit Of Valor may prove best ahead of U S Navy Flag, Fleet Review and Intelligence Cross but all four look up against it.