The 2020 Grand National will mark 15 years since esteemed trainer Willie Mullins saddled a winner in the race for the first time. It’s a feather in the cap of any trainer to earn victory in the UK’s biggest horse race at Aintree, and Hedgehunter, ridden by Ruby Walsh, gave Mullins that special sense of achievement back in 2005.
“It’s fantastic. I never dreamed this,” Mullins commented after that triumph, “I’ve been watching this race since I was about five or six. It’s the race that every jockey, owner or trainer wants to win.”
As thrilled as he was at the time, you can bet that Mullins hasbeen itching to add a second Grand National victory to his significant list of achievements in the years since that maiden triumph. Horse racing’s top trainers have got where they are because of their insatiable desire for more and more success.
While Mullins has enjoyed exemplary success at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years, including his first win in the Gold Cup last year with Al Boum Photo, a second Grand National victory continues to elude him.
He’ll be hoping that 2020 could prove to be his year, and it seems like Burrows Saint is his best chance of victory, currently second-favourite in the latest Grand National betting odds. The seven-year-old looked in fine form in the Punchestown Hurdle in December, with in-form jockey Rachael Blackmore riding him to success in the Irish race. Of course, the Grand National is a whole different kettle of fish, but Mullins was pleased with the performances of both horse and jockey at Punchestown.
“It was an enterprising ride,” Mullins said, “and Rachael did what I asked her to do. She jumped out and galloped and the horse did it well. She said even when he was getting tired that when he saw a hurdle he wanted to gallop down to it. He loves jumping.”
While that win proved Burrows Saint is in decent form, it was the victory at the Irish Grand National last year that will perhaps give Mullins most confidence heading to Aintree. That was a strong, determined display that proved that Burrows Saint has the strength and stamina to endure the long, hard-fought nature of the Grand National, and with a year’s worth of extra experience and maturity in the tank, Burrows Saint could be primed for a strong display at Aintree this year.
That said, Burrows Saint is still a young horse. You have to go back as far as 1940 for the last time a seven-year-old won the Grand National, but the fact that a trainer of Mullins’ standing places such stock in his horse, he could be the one to buck that trend.
Of course, Mullins has other entries in the Grand National. Total Recall is another of Mullins’ horses with a decent chance at Aintree, although his current price of 33/1 suggests such a victory would be a shock. Similarly priced is Pleasant Company, while Chef Des Obeaux and Class Conti are longer shots at 40/1 and 50/1 respectively.
But Mullins will have faith in the talents of Burrows Saint, and with a strong performance on April 4th the trainer could join an elite band of men and women who have saddled more than one Grand National winner.