Gearing up for Grand National 2022: one to watch from Ascot

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  • If you’re wondering which of the Grand National contenders to side with after the all-important weights were revealed last week, Ascot’s meeting on Saturday 19 February provided a good pointer in the form of the Swinley Chase winner. The Henry Daly-trained Fortescue is certainly worth keeping an eye on as we get nearer to the Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree in April, while we even look ahead to the 2023 Grand National…


    With the first two in Haydock’s Grand National trial on Saturday (The Galloping Bear and Bristol De Mai, see below) not engaged in this year’s Grand National at Aintree, it was the greatbritishstallionshowcase.co.uk Swinley Chase that provided more National clues. It was won by Henry Daly’s Fortescue, who stayed on strongly from the second-last to beat top-weight Fiddlerontheroof whose powder had been kept dry by the Tizzards until after last week’s National weights had been announced.

    Fortescue could have done with this result a week earlier – before the weights were published. He was ridden by Hugh Nugent, who is attached to Venetia Williams. The horse has been allotted 10 stone in the National, which means 25 horses on top of Tiger Roll need to drop out of the race before he gets a run.

    “It’s great,” said the jockey after what was by some margin his biggest winner. “My [maternal] granddad bred and owns him – it would be great to have a ride for him in the National; last year he’d have missed the cut, the time before he’d have got in.

    “But I’m pretty happy with today. You always have to niggle a bit with him, but you don’t mind because he always finds and his jumping is superb. In those marathon trips, you want a horse who always has a bit up his sleeve,” he added.


    Looking even further ahead, one of the best-named horses in training could be one to add to your notebooks for the 2023 Grand National.

    Genuine heavy ground has been something of a rarity this winter, but The Galloping Bear – a graduate of the British point-to-point scene along with his “rookie” trainer Ben Clarke – absolutely thrived on it to win the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock.

    Turning in, Bristol De Mai – winner of three Betfair Chases, but not a National candidate this year after showing his disdain for Aintree last April – looked set to win his sixth race at Haydock. But conceding 19lb to the Adrian Paterson owned ex-pointer was beyond even Nigel Twiston-Davies’s star 11-year-old and The Galloping Bear, for whom no distance or ground can be too testing, finally ground him down going to the last before going on to win by seven lengths.

    He won the Surrey National over 3m5f on Lingfield heavy so Haydock, over a similar distance, was never going to hold any fears for him.

    “We had talked about the Midlands National, but that was an absolute war out there today,” said Ben Clarke. “If you see him again this season, it’ll be over the water in the Irish National. He’s very conditions dependent, so next season we’ll probably look at the Welsh National and then maybe on to the big one at Aintree – but it will depend on the ground.

    “And he’s not the type of horse you’ll see running five or six times a season. We had him two seasons before we got him on track, because he had niggling problems and he’s still quite fragile.”

    • Read Marcus’s full report on the weekend’s racing action in Horse & Hound, in shops on Thursday 24 February

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