Ruby Walsh: Footpad’s the highlight on a good day’s racing at Naas

Top jock and Paddy Power Ambassador Ruby Walsh runs through the Naas card and throws in a couple of UK fancies for good measure ...

Ruby Walsh pose

The highlight of the weekend for me will be the return of Footpad at Naas. He’s been working well and I schooled him during the week and he went really well.

It’s a bit like Samcro last week. Our winter horses aren’t Cheltenham fit just yet, so they will improve for the run.

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We’re happy to start him off here though and hopefully it all goes well and he gets off to a winning start. There’s a UK challenger in Saint Calvados who never really struck a blow in the Arkle last season but was a high-class performer up to then. He’ll appreciate all the rain that has been falling.

The Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle at 1.05 left me with a decision to make. I’ve gone for Saldier over Mr Adjudicator, but it was a close call.

On Cheltenham form you’d pick the Triumph Hurdle second Mr Adjudicator, but on Punchestown form you’d opt for Saldier who beat him by three lengths in the four-year-old Champion Hurdle.

They’re both working well but Saldier could be open to a little bit more improvement.

Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’allen was a very good horse 12 months ago before his form tapered off a bit at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. If he finds his form again, he’ll give them plenty to think about.

While the other may have a fitness edge over the three main players, I don’t think they ‘ll have the class to win it.

Paul Townend rides Bacardys in the Beginners Steeplechase at 3.25pm. He was third in this race last year, when he jumped a little bit carefully.

He’ll probably wants every yard of the 2m 3f trip. That would be my only worry – that he may need a little bit further.

There’ll be no hiding place given that the likes of Burgas and Any Second Now are in the field, but they’re all having their first run too, so it’s a level playing field. He worked and schooled well during the week.

Bacardys was a high-class hurdler so hopefully his class sees him through this test.

Willie Mullins doesn’t have a runner in the Brown Lad H’cap Hurdle at 2.50pm but Paul Townend looks to have picked up a nice ride again in Slippery Serpent. He steered him to win at Punchestown last time and with only a 6lb penalty here, should go close again.

Patrick Mullins rides Westport Lady in the bumper at 4pm. She has had a couple of chances already and has finished second twice but is fit and well and can go close again.

Across the water …

There’s good racing in the UK on Saturday where UnowwhatImeanharry makes his seasonal bow at Aintree 2.10pm. He didn’t scale the heights last season that he did the year before, but that often happens after a hard campaign. He’s had a wind operation and is tough and resolute. He looks the stronger candidate to me as Wholestone can be very hit and miss.

Meanwhile at Wincanton, Nicky Henderson’s Verdana Blue should give them all plenty to do in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at 15.00

The Badger Ales Trophy 15.35 follows straight after and this can go to another last time out winner in Bigbadjohn. Things didn’t work for him at Chepstow on his first run when he was well supported in the market. He made amends next time out at this track and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horses are in good form. He looks like he’s improving.

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