Harry Whittington is excited at taking on Altior with Saint Calvados in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, following his ace performer’s victory in Ireland.
The five-year-old stole the show at Naas on Saturday when making all the running in the Poplar Square Chase as hot favourite Footpad came down at the final fence when under pressure to make a challenge.
The result vindicated Whittington’s brave decision to take on the Arkle Trophy winner on his home territory and get Saint Calvados back on track after he was well beaten by Footpad at Cheltenham in March.
Now, Whittington cannot wait for his up-and-coming star to take on two-mile champion Altior on December 8.
“He’s one of my equine heroes – he’s just an unbelievable horse,” the Wantage trainer said of the Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, on At The Races.
“Obviously, Saint Calvados is still a young horse. Who knows what he could be in the future?”
The Tingle Creek will be the next clue on that score.
“It’s going to be a great spectacle, I hope, for everybody to behold,” Whittington added.
“We’ll look forward to it.
“From now until the Tingle Creek is not a huge amount of time. We didn’t want to go to Cheltenham at the weekend (for the Shloer Chase), with the Arkle not having gone to plan.
“To get back on track we thought a smaller field like this, first-second season novices, looked ideal conditions.
“Saint Calvados is a smart horse. I think he’s proved that and has probably quietened the doubters now.
“He has definitely strengthened up a huge amount physically, and some of his work has been more improved this autumn.
“He’s more the finished article, more relaxed, more professional.”
Whittington was optimistic en route to Naas.
“He’s just been thriving and looking amazing,” he said.
“We felt he would come back and give Footpad something to think about, and he’s done that.
“There was an element maybe Footpad was not at his best. (But) our performance was very polished and controlled, and he was more relaxed in front.
“The one (fence) where Footpad made the mistake, actually Calvados put in a short one – and he was so quick and clever it might have put a bit more pressure on.
“He may have just forced the error. But at the end of the day we’re thrilled it went well – and all roads lead to the Tingle Creek.”