Welsh Grand National 2022 Preview
The Welsh Grand National is one of the most demanding Grand Nationals owing to the fact that it is often cold and wet with the added complexities of frost or snow. Conditions are not for the faint at heart as they are generally unforgiving and unrelenting over the three mile and six-furlong trip.
The race, because of its place in the calendar, has frequently been moved from its original scheduled date due to adverse weather conditions including waterlogging, frost and snow especially in recent times.
As recently as the 2020 renewal, that history repeated itself as the course became saturated after consistent heavy rainfall. The original date of December 27th 2020 had to be abandoned was then changed to January 9th 2021. The race has frequently been moved in recent years including in 2011, 2012, 2015 as well as 2017 due to similar problems.
To be in with a real chance of winning the Welsh Grand National you need to have a horse with stamina in abundance as well as one that is usually proven on soft or heavy ground.
This test of endurance over the marathon trip is stamina sapping at its best. The race tends to produce winners that have certainly proved to be worth following subsequently including the likes of Synchronised and Native River.
Paul Nicholls, Venetia Williams, Colin Tizzard and Jonjo O’Neill are amongst the elite trainers to have captured this prize with their runners in its history, but it is great to see the likes of local trainers Kerry Lee and Christian Williams coming through and making their marks on this historic race.
Previous Winners of the Welsh Grand National
Our guest writer, Karl Hedley, aims to go through individual (selected) runners ahead of the big day itself to try and point you in the right direction to identify the winner.
2022 Welsh National Contenders:
Quick Wave – Venetia Williams
A winner of four of her nine chases, she comes here on the back of a win in the national handicap chase at Sandown earlier in the month. She truly loves bottomless ground and has won twice on surfaces officially describes as heavy.
The nine-year-old mare never won two races back to back within such a short timeframe though and that has to be a concern. She will have no issues with the trip and looks to have an obvious chance.
Venetia Williams has won this race before with Emperors Choice and it would not be the greatest of shocks were Quick Wave to repeat that here especially with the yard in such good form.
The Big Dog – Peter Fahey
Three of The Big Dog’s four wins have come in valuable handicap chases and the Mahler nine-year-old stayed on best under Keith Donoghue to land the €60,000 first prize in the Bar One Racing Troytown Chase at the end of November.
Successful in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown last year and in the Munster National at Limerick on his previous start, The Big Dog tracked the leaders and moved into second after the third-last.
He was pulled up in this last year and the race just seemed to just take the shine off him a little before he was put away for the summer.
Peter Fahey brings him here in rude health though and any horse can have an off day. With that in mind it is well worth letting him take his chance yet again and he has the class to notch up the hat-trick.
Ask Me Early – Harry Fry
Harry Fry’s eight-year-old grey gelding certainly has an affinity with this racecourse. He was third here on his debut over hurdles when partnered by Sean Bowen. Since then the pair have come back three times and won on each and every start over three miles on extremely testing ground.
His recent spin at Bangor last month should have cleared away any cobwebs and he is fully entitled to improve for that effort.
This is his toughest assignment to date though and although he promises to stay the trip, he has never actually been tried over this extra three-quarters of a mile. Given that he is likely to progress this season; it would be foolish to dismiss him entirely on that basis.
The Galloping Bear – Ben Clarke
The Galloping Bear is on track for his long-term Welsh Grand National aim after limbering up with a run over hurdles.
The nine-year-old was targeted at the race last season but was unable to take his chance after an unsatisfactory scope, instead heading to Lingfield to win the Surrey National before landing the Haydock Grand National Trail in February.
That victory was then rescinded after suspected cross-contamination in the yard saw him test positive for a trace of a muscle treatment that contained a prohibited raceday substance.
The authorities agreed Clarke had no knowledge of The Galloping Bear having been administered the substance, but the horse was still disqualified. He made his seasonal return at Carlisle in a hurdle race over three-miles which his trainer saw as the perfect prep.
Pats Fancy – Rebecca Curtis
Pats Fancy will need to come on in leaps and bounds from what he showed us on his seasonal reappearance if he is to make any sort of impact here. He was firmly put in his place by over sixty lengths at this same track so the money coming for him is strange but still noteworthy.
His return came over a trip just short of three miles but this step up to six-furlongs further is a complete unknown. He has tumbled down the ratings since finishing runner up to Bravemansgame at Newbury back in February but this race is not exactly a walk in the park. Hard to be enthusiastic about his chances.
Escaria Ten – Gordon Elliott
Escaria Ten wasn’t beaten too far on his seasonal reappearance at Thurles just a few weeks ago where Darasso was just a couple of lengths too strong.
He is a solid jumper on his day as he proved when manoeuvring his way around the big fences at Aintree where he finished ninth overall in last seasons’ Grand National.
He is expected to improve again but may well find others a bit too good as that last race was only a listed chase. Others are improving quicker than him so whilst expected to complete, it may well be in his own time.
Lord Du Mesnil – Richard Hobson
Lord Du Mesnil may now be a nine-year-old but he has only ever run here once before and it was not exactly rememberable. He is somewhat of a Haydock specialist as three of his four career successes have all come at that same venue.
He was a solid second to Le Milos at Bangor over three-miles just last month on what was his seasonal reappearance on bottomless ground and defying his 33/1 starting price. He has Ask Me Early in behind on that occasion too and is dangerously well handicapped on the best of his old form.
He was ninth off a seven-pound higher rating in the 2020 renewal so may manage a few places better on that basis.
The Big Breakaway – Joe Tizzard
The Big Breakaway was gallant in defeat on what was his seasonal reappearance over an extended three-miles at Haydock just last month when beaten only a head by Fontaine Collonges. It was all the more to his credit as he was conceding almost a stone to the less exposed Venetia Williams trained winner.
The front pair pulled some eleven lengths clear of the rest of the field indicating that the form could potentially could be useful. He is one from one at this track and he certainly enjoys rain-softened ground.
He may well improve for this extra distance and could be a few pounds ahead of the handicapper. Brendan Powell is likely to take the reins should his mount get the go ahead and they have to command respect.
Threeunderthrufive – Paul Nicholls
Threeunderthrufive was reasonably well fancied when lining up to contest the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury back in November. Sent off at 11/1, the seven-year-old got no further than the first fence due to an uncharacteristic mistake in a race that was won by Le Milos.
He is unlikely to have done any real damage to himself and perhaps first time cheekpieces had the complete opposite effect that they were supposed to. He is better than that and like many of his rivals, this will be a step into the unknown in relation to distance.
Paul Nicholls loves to have a winner here and if back on song it would be foolish to discount his chances.
Ask Me Early could well provide the answers here for Harry Fry given his liking for this track and the quagmire conditions that he is almost certain to face.
The eight-year-old grey gelding looks sure to benefit from his recent spin at Bangor in a race which is beginning to work out. Whilst he lacks the experience of others in this race, he is open to any amount of improvement in this sphere.
Quick Wave is on a winnable looking mark and her trainer, Venetia Williams is no stranger to the winner’s enclosure.
A stayer and regular winner, she goes into this race as the Welsh Grand National favourite.
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