Unbeaten in five starts over fences, Footpad heads an entry of ten horses for the Grade 2 TheTote.com Fortria Chase on the first big day of the season at Navan on Sunday.
Winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase on the corresponding card last year, Footpad went on to land successive Grade 1 chases at Leopardstown at Christmas and at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival in February before starring at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals for champion trainer Willie Mullins who has also entered Great Field and Listen Dear.
Harry Whittington has entered Saint Calvados which was a strong second favourite behind Footpad in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices´ Chase at Cheltenham but could only manage a moderate fourth behind the Mullins star.
Gordon Elliott won TheTote.com Fortria Chase for the first time last year with Clarcam and is doubly represented at this stage with A Toi Phil and Doctor Phoenix entered. Ballyoisin could well represent Enda Bolger while Ordinary World and Rock The World have been entered by Henry De Bromhead and Jessica Harrington respectively. Joseph O’Brien has entered Arkwrisht.
Apple’s Jade set herself up for subsequent Grade 1 success at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown with an all-the-way win in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle last year and is among the ten entries for this year’s renewal of the €42,500 event.
Her trainer Gordon Elliott has also entered De Plotting Shed, runner-up in the race two years ago, and Dortmund Park while Willie Mullins has also put three in the race, Bapaume, Ria D’etel and Wicklow Brave. Arctic Fire won the Lismullen Hurdle when trained by Mullins in 2015 and he could represent trainer Denis Cullen this year. Former Champion Hurdle winner Jezki could yet carry the hopes of Jessica Harrington while Identity Thief and Coney Island have been entered by trainers Henry De Bromhead and Edward Harty.
There are also ten entries in the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle and Gordon Elliott has made two entries as he bids to win the race for the third successive year after Labaik’s win in 2016 and Mengli Khan’s easy victory 12 months ago. Elliott has entered recent maiden hurdle winners Felix Desjy and Sometime Soon and the more experienced Make My Heart Fly.
Maiden hurdle winners Aramon and Prince D’Aubrelle and the recent Tipperary Grade 3 victor Quick Grabim have been entered by Willie Mullins.
Peter Killeen, Manager of Navan Racecourse, said: “It’s terrific to see all the top trainers represented with strong top-quality entries for what is one of our flagship days. I’m also delighted and very appreciative that Tote Ireland has agreed to continue sponsoring our feature race on the day, TheTote.Com Fortria Chase, for a further two years. The weather has come good for us with a nice drop of rain in recent days providing perfect ground conditions for the first of our big National Hunt Days and with a fine day forecast for Sunday we are expecting a big day.”
Ross Kierans, General Manager of Tote Ireland, said: “Tote Ireland take great pride in their sponsorship of TheTote.com Fortria Chase and all the team at Tote are delighted to have the opportunity to promote this race for a further two years. Tote are committed to Irish racing and look forward again to partnering with Navan Racecourse.”