Weatherbys Champion Bumper Preview
The final Grade 1 on Day 2 is the Weatherbys Champion Bumper which is a race I absolutely love! It’s a real glimpse into the future and not just for the winners of the race. The likes of Florida Pearl, Cue Card and more recently Envoi Allen have all won the Champion Bumper but three-time Cheltenham festival hero, Albertas Run, was beaten out of sight in 2006. Cheveley Park Stud, more famous for their flat exploits, have invested heavily in the national hunt game over the past few seasons and have been rewarded with the last two winners. The mighty Envoi Allen took the 2019 crown, whilst Ferny Hollow stormed home in 2020. This year they will go for the hattrick with the extremely exciting Sir Gerhard who has looked deadly in his two bumper starts this season. Willie Mullins has the antepost favourite in the form of Kilcruit, who put in a jaw dropping display at Leopardstown. These two find themselves clear in the betting but there is always quality lurking at bigger prices in the Bumper and I’m sure that won’t change this year.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Current Odds: 6/4
Kilcruit has long been in the notebooks of National Hunt racing fans ever since Tony Mullins waxed lyrical about him at a preview night before last years festival. He duly went on to place second in the bumper Mr Mullins said he would win, but more than made up for it with an effortless 9 length victory on reappearance. Both the third horse, Ballycairn, and the sixth horse, Alko Rouge, have come out and won since so the form would look solid. The racing world now knew Kilcruit was an exciting prospect but he really got people talking with an astonishing win in the Grade 2 Bumper at The Dublin Racing Festival. He destroyed his nine opponents (all previous winners) and did it on the bridle! Now the time boys have been quick to point out they went extremely fast in the early parts and subsequently the leaders fell into a hole late on, whilst Kilcruit was able to maintain his gallop. Kilcruit did however do it with ultimate ease and demonstrated his staying power and high cruising speed, assets he will need in a Champion Bumper. Willie Mullins has won 10 of the past 25 renewals so he hails from the right yard and goes there with a favourites chance.
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Current Odds: 5/2
Now in the care of Willie Mullins, £400,000 Point to Point recruit, Sir Gerhard, came into his bumper debut a highly touted horse. His PTP footage is extremely impressive so I, like the racing world, was expecting big things when he was declared for a Down Royal bumper back in October. I decided to take a bit of 15/1 any race for this year’s festival before the off, as being a 5-year-old at the time, I thought connections may then opt for novice hurdles later in the season. After the race it was quite clear this fella would be sticking to bumpers as he shot to the head of the Champion Bumper market. He came there absolutely cruising and put the race to bed in the manor of a potential superstar. The second, third and fifth placed horses have all come out and won since, so the form would look okay too. Thrown into listed company on his next start, Sir Gerhard beat Gavin Cromwell’s Letsbeclearaboutit by just over 4 lengths in what turned out to be a sprint. To my eye, Sir Gerhard didn’t like the heavy ground that day and still burst clear from an extremely good horse. Letsbeclearaboutit went on to finish a 12 length second to Kilcruit at Leopardstown but he went off far too hard that day and somewhat handed the race to Kilcruit. On the bare form lines alone, Sir Gerhard would have a bit to find with Kilcruit, but I believe the better spring ground will suit and he may possess the deadlier turn of foot.
Trainer: Pam Sly
Current Odds: 8/1
Eileendover isn’t a confirmed runner as connections have earmarked the mares bumper at Aintree but should she turn up, she’d have to have a serious chance. Two visually awesome bumper wins came at Huntingdon and Wetherby before she was pitched in to Listed company at Market Rasen. Wille Mullins sent over impressive Galway scorer Grangee to claim the prize but she was no match for Eileendover, who travelled all over her rivals and lengthened away to win by an impressive 6 lengths. Grangee went on to massively frank the form when winning the Grade 2 Bumper at The Dublin Racing Festival, beating the likes of Party Central, Brandy Love and Brooklynn Glory. Eileendover will receive both the mares allowance and the 4-year-old allowance so should connections decide to come here, she must enter calculations.
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Current Odds: 12/1
Robcour have long been great supporters of the game and they have been rewarded with the likes of Bob Olinger and Teahupoo this season. Gerri Colombe looks another really exciting young horse for them to go to war with. Bought after a battling Point to Point success, Geri Colombe entered the fray with an emphatic debut success at Fairyhouse, destroying his rivals by 24 lengths on bottomless ground. Pitched into a better looking bumper on his last start, Gerri Colombe travelled like a dream and won In an extremely professional manor. Forged In Fire was back in third and despite not looking himself over hurdles so far this year he did beat Ferny Hollow in a bumper last season, so you’d have to think this is a fair level of form. Whether Gerri Colombe turns up or not is another matter in itself. At the time of writing, he is still in the care of Gordon Elliott and he only ran last weekend, so the quick turnaround is far from ideal. I do really like this fella though and should he line up, he is certainly a player.
THREE STRIPE LIFE
Trainer: Gordon Elliott
Current Odds: 12/1
Three Stripe Life is another horse that at the time of writing is under the care of Gordon Elliott. Like Gerri Colombe, I cannot be sure what will happen with him but I can be sure he has a serious engine! Having zero racing experience, with no Point to Point starts or runs on the flat, Three Stripe Life absolutely bolted up on debut and finishing sectionals got the time boys singing his praises. On a line through The Higher Road, who finished in fourth, we can compare him to stable mate Gerri Colombe who beat The Higher Road by 24 lengths. Three Stripe Life beat him by 31 and arguably did it the easier of the two. As mentioned, he has just the one start to date in any form of racing so inexperience may be a problem. Cheltenham without fans is certainly a plus to him though and he is one to watch out for should the money come in for him.
With no spectators allowed at Cheltenham this year, I am slightly concerned we may have a smaller bumper field than usual. Nevertheless, should connections opt to come here we may have some very talented “outsiders”. Ramillies certainly tops this list having bolted up in a Leopardstown bumper over Christmas. Beaten comfortably by stablemate Kilcruit last time out, he has it all to do but Willie did admit post-race he told Patrick to ride Ramillies over Kilcruit which is an indication as to how highly Willie regards him. Improvement is possible but you would like to the see a positive market move for him. Hollow Games has looked a big, strong, staying chaser for the future but has had enough class to win 2 bumpers in good fashion. Cheltenham looks sure to suit him and he could relish coming up the hill. Elle Est Belle was famously involved in a controversial photo called at Cheltenham earlier in the season where she appeared to place second, but the race was called a dead heat. Putting that bizarre incident aside she proved she handled the track and I think the style of a Champion Bumper may really suit. She looks a supreme traveller and hopefully will have rivals to take her deep into the race. With the mares allowance, I wouldn’t overlook her at 20/1.
Crunching the Numbers
- 23 of the last 25 winners were aged 5 or 6
- 23 of the previous 25 winners won last time out, including the last 17 winners
- 19 of the last 25 winners were unbeaten that season
- 21 of the previous 25 winners had either 1 or 2 starts that season
- 10 of the previous 25 winners were trained by Willie Mullins
- 21 of the last 25 winners had won a bumper by 3 or more lengths
Crunching the numbers can often be tricky for the Champion Bumper as plenty of runners come into the race with very similar profiles. Nevertheless, this year’s renewal see’s both market leaders Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard score 6/6 on the trends with Gerri Colombe, Three Stripe life, Est Elle Belle and Hollow Games all ticking 5 boxes. Being a 4-year-old and not trained by Willie Mullins, Eileendover only ticks 4, so if she runs she will have to buck the age trend.
Recent renewals of the Champion Bumper have been extremely high-class affairs with 2019 throwing up the likes of Envoi Allen, Thyme Hill and Abacadabras who all went on to run massive races in last seasons novice hurdles, finishing first, fourth and second. The 2020 running saw Appreciate It and Ferny Hollow fly up the hill before going on to impress over hurdles this season. This year’s bumper looks sure to follow suit and I think we have two monsters at the top of the market. As mentioned previously, I have a nice antepost slip on Sir Gerhard and I shall be sticking with my man. I just think he may be the quicker horse and we could have a case of de ja vu! I can see Kilcruit travelling through the race with ease and looking the winner turning for home but just like Ferny last year, Sir Gerhard can sprint away up the Cheltenham hill to Festival glory. With two big guns in the market, there may be a chance for others to sneak into this and I firmly believe Gerri Colombe has the talent and engine to get involved. I would say the same for Est Elle Belle who can be smuggled into the race and played late coming up the hill. I think she may find one or two too good but can see her outrunning her odds and maybe pinching a place.
My Idea of the Winner
- Sir Gerhard 5/2
Each Way Play
- Gerri Colombe 12/1 and/or Est Elle Belle 20/1 depending on declarations
- Sir Gerhard
- Gerri Colombe/Est Elle Belle
By Sam Rideout
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