Burrows Saint continues to be conspicuous by his absence


Perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins’ Grand National team continues to gather pace for the April spectacular, but his apparent first string Burrows Saint has still only made the racecourse once this winter.

Back in April 2019, then six-year-old Burrows Saint led home a Mullins 1-2-3 in the Irish National, catapulting himself in the process to second favouritism for the following year’s National.

Ten months on and we have only seen Burrows Saint once in the ensuing period when he was successful in a 2m3½f hurdle race on New Year’s Eve, this time leading home a Mullins 1-2-3-4 under Rachael Blackmore.

The performance was an excellent one considering his 13/2 odds which perceived him as the Mullins third string over a distance surely short of his best.

Going from the front, however, he tanked along to win by just over 3L from Saglawy and he was value for considerably more. Such a display further rubber stamped him as the master of Closutton’s chief National horse, but strangely he hasn’t been seen since he was withdrawn from last weekend’s Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.

Talking of the decision to swerve the Bobbyjo, Mullins’ assistant trainer Paul Casey said: “We just decided to bypass it, but he’s in good order.

“He has no plans to run at the moment. The National is the target and he might go straight to Aintree without another run.”

First things first, Mullins is a genius. One of the greatest trainers of all time and a man with few peers. But the decision to go straight to Aintree – where the horse won’t have run over fences in almost a year – is surely a hugely risky one.

Recent renewals have shown that horses don’t need to have run in a National or even over the unique fences before to excel.

Once upon a time that was thought to be a huge factor. However, eight of the last 12 winners were having their first run in the race and the majority their first public outing over the fences. Flicking through the history books, though, it is nigh-on impossible to find a National winner who hadn’t run over fences that season.

Officially, Burrows Saint has run over fences during the 2019/20 season, which a horse must do to qualify, but that was the Irish National and really the end of the 2018/19 season as far as horses’ winter campaigns are concerned.

Only Mullins and perhaps owner Rich Ricci know why we haven’t seen Burrows Saint. Maybe the horse is so well that they feel running him and changing that is a risk not worth taking, but the decision to keep the cotton wool on is a little puzzling.

Mullins’ ability to win after lay-offs is legendary and that does alleviate some of the concerns. Penhill, Arctic Fire and the legendary Quevega have all won first time out at the Cheltenham Festival, while the likes of Douvan, Faugheen and Benie Des Dieux, to name just a few, have all won Grade 1’s after huge breaks, so an absence of just four months is certainly not a worry.

With the likes of Total Recall and Acapella Bourgeois both winning usually very informative National trials, the fact Burrows Saint remains the Closutton number one is telling.

He remains the biggest threat to Tiger Roll and is probably the only horse who could be significantly well in after only running three times over fences at 3m plus.

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