All roads still lead to Aintree for Burrows Saint even if he was shown up by stablemate Acapella Bourgeois at Fairyhouse, writes Bradley West.
The 2019 Irish Grand National winner, who has been tipped for Grand National glory this year having been a leading contender for the cancelled race in 2020, was looking to gear up for National duty at one of its best trials in the Bobbyjo Chase.
But, the 20-1 National hopeful could not best Acapella Bourgeois, who delivered an impressive start-to-finish victory to surprise even his legendary trainer Willie Mullins.
“He’s surprised me a little bit,” Mullins said. “I rang Lar Byrne before the race to tell him that he wasn’t in great form, I said ‘an 11-year-old, he just might not be improving’.
“I’m nicely surprised and I just think Burrows Saint, the ground’s probably a bit too testing for him.
“I thought he [Acapella Bourgeois] had a hard race at Gowran and I thought I gave him plenty of time to recover from it. I didn’t want to ask him too many questions since.
“He probably came here a little fresh and I didn’t ask him a lot because you can’t keep asking. I think freshening up has probably paid off.”
Victory here slashed Acapella’s Grand National odds from 50-1 to 33-1, although a tilt at the Aintree showcase may still be beyond the 11-year-old.
Nevertheless, he delivered a stunning showing here, having arrived off the back of finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase, to extend Mullins’ stranglehold over the Grade 3 encounter.
The result marked an 11th victory for the Master of Closutton in the 3m1½f contest, as Philip Dempsey’s The Long Mile, Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis and Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly all failed to match his leading duo.
Burrows Saint came into the race looking to get back to winning ways, last seen being well-beaten on his comeback in the Galmoy Hurdle in January.
But, while this performance left a little to be desired with an attack on his stablemate never materialising, Mullins is backing the run to be just what Burrows Saint needs moving forward to Aintree.
He added: “I think Paul was just trying to get him [Burrows Saint] away from Acapella Bourgeois.
“That’s what we’re aiming for this year [Aintree]. There’s still improvement there, and that’s what Paul thinks too. This is usually a good race to take in on your way to Aintree.”