Aintree dismay for Lytham owner
Lytham racehorse owner Alan Halsall suffered double disappointment at Aintree on Friday
To his dismay, his horse Bishops Road was ballotted out of the Crabbies Grand National - and then he got no further than the first fence in the Crabbies Topham Chase won by the JP McManus owned Eastlake.
Bishops Road, hitherto unbeaten since being bought by the Lytham businessman, parted company at the first fence with his jockey Jamie Moore.
Halsall, a director of Aintree, reflected ruefully: "It was very disappointing because we wanted to run in the National and then he comes down at the first in the Topham.
"He has shown a tendency in the past to make mistakes early on in his races.
"Maybe they were going too fast for him early on and he could have got squeezed for room."
Halsall ruled out a tilt at the Scottish National at Ayr on April 16.
He said: "I think we wiil look at the Bet365 Chase at Sandown Park next for him."
Bishops Road, a winner at Sandown and Haydock on his previous starts, was sent off the well-backed 8-1 favourite for the Topham.
Both horse and jockey were unscathed after the first fence spill.
The 22-1 chance Eastlake got the better of a sustained duel with Fairy Rath after the last - Fairy Rath, runner-up in the race for the second year in succession, did not help his cause by a mistake at the last.
Eastlake made it third time lucky over the Grand National fences, the win ending a spell in the doldrums With only two completed starts to his name this season, the Barry Geraghty-ridden 10-year-old showed what he can do on a going day when carrying the famous green and gold silks of his owner JP McManus to glory in the Grade Three handicap.
Although the winner travelled much the stronger he took time to warm to the task and it was only inside the final 100 yards of the two-mile-five-furlong affair that Jonjo O'Neill's charge edged on to take a four-length success.
Geraghty said: "He was brilliant. He stuck in a short one at the third-last, which was him being cleverer than me, but all the way through the race he was jumping almost too well and I was getting involved sooner than I wanted to be.
"He pinged the Canal Turn and I had a great ride through the race. The ground has improved and he enjoyed it, but he's just a natural.
"There's been modifications to the fences, but it's still about jumping. They're big fences and there's been plenty of horses been caught out by them. They might not be as severe as they were, but they're still a massive test of a horse."
McManus said: "Barry gave him a great ride, he was happy all the way round.
"AP (McCoy) said he's the type of horse he'd ride in the National, and Jonjo's done well with him to be fair, he's had his problems but we're delighted with him today."
McManus has a number of chances in the National itself on Saturday, led by last year's fifth Shutthefrontdoor, who will be ridden by Geraghty.
He added: "He ran a great race last year, but he was a bit free having not had a run before it. If we don't get too much rain, he'd have his chance."
There was a sad postscript to the Topham when Gullinbursti was fatally injured, while another casualty Minella Reception was taken back to the racecourse stables for veterinary inspection.