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Monday 19th December 2022

Your Guide to the Welsh Grand National Frontrunners

While it seems like everybody in the country is part of a sweepstake for the Grand National, there are fewer of us that get excited for the Welsh running of the event. It could be because we're all a little sleepy after the Christmas excess, but we think that there's no winter race more exciting than this marathon event.

horse jumping fence

At 3 miles and 6 furlongs and with 21 obstacles to jump, this race is a test of endurance, careful jumping and on the typically heavy December ground, a real display of grit. Chepstow has held the race since 1949, but it can be a difficult course for right reined horses.

Whether you're planning on having a bet and want to impress by picking a winner, we've round up the need to know on the horses with the best chance this year. So, pads and pens at the ready, you'll want to make a note of these likely winners.

Quick Wave

First up is the undisputed favourite Quick Wave, who almost anyone who is planning on betting on horses has backed, with odds favouring her as short as 5/1. Despite having had a less than exciting start to racing in France, followed by a more promising, but still underwhelming spell over fences with Venetia Williams, Quick Wave has come back from a wind operation and looks to be twice the horse she ever was.

After taking the reigns back in 2018, Venetia Williams saw something special in the horse but could never quite work out how to get the full potential out of her. It turned out that wind surgery in 2021, followed by a return to track and a big step up in trip was exactly what Quick Wave needed. The 9-year-old mare has looked the best she's ever been on her last two outings, one this month and one back in January.

Despite being lightly raced this year, she's won decisively on both outings, once by 14 lengths and once by 4 lengths. Her incredible four length win came despite her being terribly hampered by a loose horse and having some sticky jumping moments, showing how careful and resourceful this mare can be. There's an awful lot to like about this plucky mare and her improvement for a step up in trip suggests she might love the longer run at Chepstow.

Ask Me Early

While all of the bookmakers are putting Quick Wave as the favourite, there's a lot to be said for the stunning grey gelding Ask Me Early. With just ten races under rules under his belt, the nine-year-old is fairly lightly raced. Like Quick Wave, he had wind surgery back in 2021 and went on to win his following two races after that, both novice hurdles.

He returned to chasing the following year, though never quite seemed to hit his stride, unseating his rider at Wincanton and finishing third at Bangor on Dee. His third-place result wasn't to be sniffed at though, he was beaten by Le Milos and Lord du Mesnil, two excellent chasers and this was mostly a test to see how he'd get on with a step up in trip.

It's also worth noting that Ask Me Early was being readied for the Welsh National last year, but a fall during training at home meant that he ended up missing the race.

Trainer Harry Fry said in an interview with the racing post that the horse was too special to risk and that they'd be postponing his entry until 2022. Now that we're in 2022 it looks like Ask Me Early might finally be ready to really hit his stride. The horse has never lost around Chepstow before and having such form on a testing course like this will certainly stand him in good stead.

The Galloping Bear

The Galloping Bear is an interesting proposition for the big race. He comes from a small yard run by Ben Clarke, who it would be fair to say has had some ups and downs since getting his jumps license in September of 2021.

The Galloping Bear had already been a good horse for Clarke running in Hunter Chases and point to point races and almost never being out of the money. His first race under rules came in December 2021 when he fell in second place, three from home. Ask Me Early went on to win that race as the only runner to make it home.

His next appearance was at Lingfield, where he won a 3-mile 6-furlong chase in great style despite the jockey dropping his reins on the run in. It appears that The Galloping Bear had really hit his stride and his next race would tell just how much quality the horse had. The Grand National Trial at Haydock was set to be a competitive race, with the people's favourite Bristol de Mai heading up the betting.

In an incredible turn of events, The Galloping Bear snuck past the post first. It was clear that the horse had enormous class and though he ended up being disqualified after a drugs test, which his trainer put down to cross contamination, his achievement can't be totally ignored.

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