Saint Calvados strikes after Footpad falls
Hot favourite Footpad departed at the final fence as Saint Calvados made all the running in a dramatic race for the Poplar Square Chase at Naas.
British raider Saint Calvados hardly hit a twig in the hands of Gavin Sheehan, putting last season's Arkle Trophy hero under pressure from an early stage in the Grade Three contest.
Sheehan lifted the tempo turning for home and Harry Whittington's flamboyant jumper held a three-length lead at the last, where Footpad slithered badly, giving Ruby Walsh little chance of keeping the partnership intact, after making a couple of mistakes earlier in proceedings.
With the 4/9 favourite market leader gone, Saint Calvados (5/2) was left clear and coasted home by four and a half lengths, with Tycoon Prince claiming second place. Saint Calvados was cut to 5/1 from 8/1 for the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on December 8 with the sponsors.
Whittington said: "He'll go for the Tingle Creek next and I'm looking forward to him going over the Railway fences there. He was just a bit rusty over the first couple, but it was a good performance.
"I'm delighted for Andrew and Kate Brooks (owners) and for the horse. You can just draw a line through the Arkle now, and he's probably silenced the doubters. He's come back and done it well. He's a proper two-miler, and Gavin felt he was just hacking round. He's only going to get better with age, as he's still a big, raw horse and only five. It's very exciting."
Looking further ahead, Whittington said: "He's in the King George. I was trying to convince Andrew not to enter him so we didn't get tempted, but Andrew said you can blame it on the owner. But he's a two-miler with that raw pace.
"After the Tingle Creek he may have a break and come out somewhere in February as a prep for Cheltenham, if all goes to plan, but it's up to Andrew.
"He's a much stronger horse now and his work has improved significantly at home. He's more the finished article and he'll get even stronger next year. It's super, super exciting!"
Assessing Footpad, trainer Willie Mullins said: "Footpad has an overreach in front. He might have got it when he made the mistake (at the third fence). He's quite sore and to me that's enough to stop a fluent jumper from jumping.
"He was very sore when he jogged in the stable yard after cooling down, and hopefully it's just an overreach."
There was more disappointment for Walsh and Mullins when Espoir D'Allen took advantage of the fall of Saldier at the final flight to land Grade Three honours in the Fishery Lane Hurdle.
The Walsh-ridden Saldier had gone on from long-time leader Mastermind at the second-last, but was being pressed by Espoir D'Allen when he came down.
Espoir D'Allen (3/1) strode away on the run-in for trainer Gavin Cromwell, to score by 11 lengths from Mr Adjudicator.
Cromwell said: "You would love to do it on merit and I don't know if he'd have won. It was all up in the air."
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