Road to Grand National glory likely to go through Closutton
Perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins tasted Grand National glory with Hedgehunter in 2005, and, after second and third-placed finishers Pleasant Company and Rathvinden respectively in the last two years, he looks to be assembling his strongest ever team for the 2020 edition.
105 horses were entered at the unveiling of the Grand National last week with Mullins’ Irish trainers’ title rival Gordon Elliott responsible for the most runners; his team totalling 18. Mullins himself is responsible for nine National entries and plenty of them bring appealing claims.
Current ante-post second favourite Burrows Saint headlines his team at the ante-post stage. Last year’s Irish National winner has clearly been laid out for the English equivalent in 2020. After finishing a respectable third behind classy Fakir D’Oudairies in a Grade One over an inadequate 2m4f trip first time up Burrows Saint reverted to hurdles next, a tried and tested method of protecting one’s chase handicap mark. At Punchestown and again over a trip short of his best he was able to defeat more fancied stablemates Saglawy and Stratum in fine fashion from the front. Burrows Saint is currently a 16/1* chance for Aintree glory.
Mullins has a host of other strong Aintree candidates. Recent Thyestes Chase winner Total Recall is certainly among the more interesting of them. His liking for big handicaps is proven with wins in the Ladbrokes Trophy, Munster National and William Fry Handicap Hurdle as well as the Thyestes. He flopped in the National as favourite two years ago but is certainly worth a second look in 2020 at odds of around 28/1*.
Behind Total Recall in the Thyestes was Acapella Bourgeois. This talented individual has often looked the sort who will relish an extreme test of stamina and indeed his third to Burrows Saint in last year’s Irish National proved that to be the case. A sound jumper, he could really come into his own at Aintree if the rain falls with testing ground something he absolutely relishes.
Others worth noting include Pleasant Company. Now a 12-year-old, Pleasant Company went down agonisingly by just a head in 2018 to Tiger Roll and when fancied to go one better in 2019 he fell four out when still in with every chance. His form this year is a concern but his past National form in the past means he still merits serious respect.
Cadmium has the considerable benefit of a win over the unique National fences having won last year’s Topham over 2m5f although there are significant stamina doubts in his case with the vast majority of his form coming over 2m-2m4f.
One who probably will stay is this season’s Munster National heroine Cabaret Queen. She has let the side down a couple of times since but remains a mare on a workable handicap mark; Magic Of Light showed that mares can go well in the National when second 12 months ago.
Completing Mullins’ team are Chef Des Obeaux who pulled up when fancied in the Thyestes, Class Conti who was second there, Voix Du Reve a Grade One winning novice and Yorkhill a superstar once upon a time but an enigma now.
*Odds subject to change.