Horses To Follow » Bishops Road

Bishops Road

Bishops Road put up a really good performance to win the Grand National Trial at Haydock last Saturday.

Held up out the back of the field by Richard Johnson through the early stages of the race, and not helped by a mistake at the second fence, Kerry Lee’s horse found his rhythm as the race progressed. He moved up in behind the leaders after they had jumped four fences, he was last of the group of five that broke away going down the back straight the final time. He jumped up into third place at the third fence down the back straight, he disputed the lead as they left the back straight, and he moved easily into the lead at the fourth last fence. He moved clear on the run to the third last and, although it appeared at the second last fence as if Broadway Buffalo was going to overhaul him, especially given the fact that his stamina for this three-and-a-half-mile trip was not proven, it was to Bishops Road’s immense credit that he stayed on as well as he did to repel the David Pipe horse.

This was an attritional contest, as it often is. Just eight set out, but only three came home, and all three finished tired. Bishops Road had never been beyond three miles before, and such was the pace that he showed to win over two and a half miles at Sandown on his previous run, the fact that he was able to see out this extreme trip as well as he did marks him down not only as highly-talented, but also immensely versatile.

The Heron Island gelding was a good horse for Gigginstown House and Henry de Bromhead in Ireland – he won a decent handicap chase at Leopardstown in January last year over two miles and five furlongs off a mark of 123 – but he appears to have progressed again this season. That run at Sandown was his seasonal debut and his first for Kerry Lee, and he was really impressive in winning by 17 lengths. The handicapper raised him 14lb for that to a mark of 144, but that didn’t stop him on Saturday.

The handicapper has given him another 10lb for Saturday’s win but, interestingly, because the Grand National is an early-closing race with no penalties, if he does make it to the Aintree line-up, he will be racing off his old mark of 144, not his new mark of 154. He will be 10lb well-in, and that makes him very interesting for the race.

His jumping is a little bit of a worry, he still has a tendency to miss one, and that is obviously not ideal with Aintree in mind. And he is only an eight-year-old, it may be that he needs to mature a little more in order to morph into a genuine National contender. That said, Many Clouds won the National last year as an eight-year-old, and the fact that Bishops Road is so well-handicapped this year means that connections have to have a go. Neptune Collonges was only just beaten by Giles Cross in the Haydock Grand National Trial in 2012 before going on to land the National off a 2lb lower mark.

20th February 2016