St Annes racehorse owner Alan Halsall is dreaming dreams of Aintree glory after his horse Bishops Road landed the Betfred Grand National Trial Steeplechase at Haydock Park.
The gelding, having only his second run in Halsall’s colours, maintained his 100 per cent with this brave win, augmenting a previous win at Sandown Park in January.
Bishops Road defied a stone rise in the weights for that Sandown success and stepped up a mile in distance to keep the outstanding record this season of trainer Kerry Lee.Travelling sweetly for champion jockey elect Richard Johnson throughout, he took some time to warm up on the jumping front but one by one his rivals dropped away.Gas Line Boy and Rigadin De Beauchene had cried enough going down the back straight and only four remained in contention, with Cloudy Too, Minella On Line and Broadway Buffalo still in there pitching against Bishops Road.
Only one of those soon mattered as he began to pull clear but he was idling between the last two, giving Katie Walsh a sniff of a chance on Broadway Buffalo.
In a slow-motion finish, though, Johnson kept the 13-2 chance going to land the prize.
Lee took over the licence from her father Richard and she was eager to acknowledge his contribution as he now acts as her assistant trainer.
She said: “It’s just amazing. I’m very lucky. I bought this horse and he’ll go straight to the National now.
“I’m so lucky to have a fantastic assistant who trained so many winners. He’s a huge part of the team as is mum and my brother Tom in terms of race planning and placing.”I have a lot going for me in that respect.”
Johnson said: “He got into a lovely rhythm and it helped him see the trip out.
“He won over two and a half the last day and today he’s shown he can stay the Grand National trip.
“Hopefully slightly better ground might help him, but he’s done it well in those conditions.”
It has been Halsall’s lifelong ambition to see his colours carried to victory in the Grand National.
He was first hooked on the race when he attended the 1965 National.
Halsall is a director at Aintree and used to own the Silver Cross pram company until it was sold to a Chinese conglomerate last year.
Bishops Road was purchased by Halsall after the horse had previously been trained in Ireland.