Saint Calvados came back to his best with an exhilarating run, to land the Grade Three Poplar Square Chase at Naas, as Footpad lost his unbeaten record over fences.
Five went to post for this two-mile contest, but this race saw the return to action of two of last season’s leading novice chasers, Footpad and Saint Calvados.
At flag fall, Saint Calvados went straight into the lead, tracked by Footpad, with Tycoon Prince third.
By the second fence, Saint Calvados had moved three lengths clear, with Footpad settled in second and a gap already forming back to Tycoon Prince and Arkwrisht, with Blue Empyrean last of the quintet.
Racing into the back straight, Saint Calvados continued to bowl along with a four length advantage at the third, where Footpad made a bad error.
With five to jump, Saint Calvados still held a healthy lead over Footpad, who in turn was clear of the remainder. Again Footpad was not fluent at his fence.
Racing to the third last, Saint Calvados was still clear of Footpad, but as they rounded the home turn, Ruby Walsh had yet to make his move on Footpad.
Saint Calvados took the second last two lengths clear and Walsh then began to squeeze on Footpad.
However, he was struggling to get on terms with Saint Calvados, as Footpad, under pressure, clumsily over-jumped and sprawled on landing, hitting the deck.
That left the enterprisingly-ridden Saint Calvados, clear of toiling rivals – and whilst Tycoon Prince plugged on gamely, Gavin Sheehan’s mount never faced a serious challenge.
The Harry Whittington trained Saint Calvados, a five year-old, had looked a smart prospect when landing his first three novice chases last season. However, he maybe cut his own throat by duelling with Petit Mouchoir in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.
He won impressively here and had Footpad in trouble before that rival fell. Tycoon Prince came home third, with Arkwrisht the only other finisher.
Sheehan said: “It was a good effort to be fair. He jumped very well, he was clever but I didn’t really wake him up until the third last.
“I thought he had to step up from last year and I think he has come on leaps and bounds and he is only going to get better.”
Whittington added: “He has improved significantly for a summer break. He is only five still. It is just so exciting. He is a much bigger, stronger horse. He was still raw last year.
“It is onwards and upwards and on to the Tingle Creek.”