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Weatherby's Champion Bumper (Grade 1 Standard Open NH Flat Race)
Also known as the Weatherby’s Champion Bumper, this is a National Hunt Flat race – a race run for (future) jumps horses only. Horses who have previously raced on the Flat are not eligible, but horses with previous point-to-point experience are. The race is run over 2 miles 110 yards on the Old Course on Day 2 (Wednesday 15th March 2017) of the Cheltenham Festival.
Our 2017 Champion Bumper tip is Cause Toujours for the team of Dan and Harry Skelton, who looks a very smart prospect indeed.
Quickening clear with another rival in a point to point at Oldcastle in April 2016, he unseated his rider at the final fence when in the process of posting a very smart effort. On in running comments, the eventual winner (who he was upsides at the final fence) was listed as ‘impressive’. Subsequent to the point to point run, he was ought by Carl Hinchy and transferred to the Dan Skelton yard.
On bumper debut for Dan Skelton, he was held up before making headway to chase the leaders at half way. He eased into the lead on the bridle at the two furlong pole and cruised clear for a seven length success. If Harry Skelton had come off the bridle on the home straight, it would have been a question of ‘how far?’ and as put eloquently by the commentator that day, ‘the referee would stop the fight if this was a boxing match’. It was a demolition job and an impressive performance, as the way he travelled and then effortlessly went clear on the bit was taking to say the least.
Much better can be expected of him this time around with that run under his belt and his point to point all but assures us that he’ll keep on finding up the hill. His pedigree is also very pleasing to look at and in general, this looks like a very smart horse in the making. He can take the Champion Bumper for 2017 in good style for connections.
Producing the likes of Cue Card, Champagne Fever, Moon Racer and most recently Ballyandy, this is certainly a race to watch with the winners likely to go on to do good things over obstacles. Our Champion Bumper preview can be found below.
Unseating his rider at the final fence in a point to point at Oldcastle, Cause Toujours was in the process of running a big race, upside the eventual winner who was listed as ‘impressive’ on the in-running comments. With such a nice pedigree and that run behind him, it was no surprise to see him come out and rout a bumper at Warwick in December on rules debut. He quickened clear on the bridle under Harry Skelton and was mightily impressive that day. He remains with a huge scope for progress and with that point to point run in the books, he looks likely to relish the Cheltenham Hill. He’s one to watch very closely for the future and looks the likeliest winner of the race for connections.
This race has been won a staggering eight times by Willie Mullins, and his best hope this year is the race favourite Carter McKay. Purchased for £160,000 following a ten length point-to-point victory at Ballynoe, he has been well backed on both starts under rules, winning each by just over two lengths having been sent off odds-on. He improved noticeably for his first start, and cruised home at Naas last time out, comfortably beating Joseph O’Brien’s previous bumper winner West Coast Time. His trainer described him as “one we are looking forward to” and he certainly needs to be respected for powerful connections.
Held in high regard by trainer Mrs John Harrington, Someday is another interesting entry into this year’s renewal. Second on bumper debut to Cilaos Emery in April 2016, who runs in the Supreme on Tuesday, he returned from nearly a year off when winning at Leopardstown in February. He still looked green on that occasion but was holding on well and looks an exciting prospect, as any amount of progress can now be expected by the five year old by Black Sam Bellamy. He retains the assistance of rider Kate Harrington and if talking another step forward for today’s run he looks likely to go close in this, especially as the Cheltenham Hill should suit him with his stamina laden pedigree.
Another who looks likely to go close is Western Ryder, who improved well on his second start under rules to win a listed bumper at Ascot in December, making smooth progress before holding all his challengers off well. That effort showed a good attitude and strong staying power which is something needed in a bumper of this class. Warren Greatrex is certainly sweet on his five-year-old: “He is a bit of a star. He is quirky and I was cursing most of the way round and he was last off a slow pace, but he went through a gap and then just took off. I think he is smart“. His subsequent defeat to Daphne Du Clos was no disgrace with how much weight he was giving away and was a career best by the five year old. He looks likely to play a leading role if taking another step forward and has to be respected.
Despite winning by just half a length, Next Destination only needed a hand ride to succeed at Punchestown on bumper debut, and there is likely to be much more to come. Willie Mullins has no shortage of ammunition to throw at this race, and this scopey horse by Dubai Destination will make a great chaser in time. But for now he looks a good bumper horse and Mullins was pleased by the performance: “He’s a real chasing type we got from the John Costello academy. He handled that testing ground today, but I think he might prefer better conditions. He´s very straightforward and will be a staying novice hurdler next season“. He certainly looks a good each way player if the race turns into a stamina test, but he may just lack the tactical speed of his stablemates which could be of some concern.
Another who easily won on bumper debut was West Coast Time who had no problems dismissing his opponents with contempt at Cork in January. The performance did however surprise trainer Joseph Patrick O’Brien: “It was a good performance. I didn´t expect him to do that, I thought he might get a bit tired, but I would say he´s not a bad horse’. He does however now have something to prove after being beaten fair and square by Carter McKay at Naas in February, with that rival dismissing him comfortably. He looks unlikely to reverse those placings but the better ground could be of help and is one who can be considered for the placings. Davy Russell takes the ride which is a big positive and he shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.
Along with our Champion Bumper preview and tip, we have all our other Cheltenham Festival tips and previews online to view now!
Taking its place as the last race on the second day, the Champion Bumper is designed to give four, five and six-year-olds their first real taste of Grade 1 Cheltenham Festival racing and many of the Champion Bumper winners have gone on to bigger and better things.
In 2010 Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card (the 2013 Ryanair Chase winner) became the first four-year-old to win the race in 15 years. At the post he was the 40/1, bottom weighted outsider, but once he got into his stride there was no stopping him. He obliterated the field over the final five furlongs and left five-year-old Al Ferof eight lengths behind in second.
The Richard Johnson-Philip Hobbs partnership claimed victory the following year when 14/1 shot Cheltenian took command of the race three from home, before stretching away to eventually win by five lengths.
2012 and 2013 saw wins for Willie Mullins – the two most recent of his eight Champion Bumper victories. Firstly, his son Patrick was on board 14/1 shot Champagne Fever who made all and held on strongly to come out just over a length clear of a field consisting of The New One, Jezki and Many Clouds. Briar Hill was next in the winner’s enclosure, as he and Ruby Walsh bolted up over the last three furlongs, claiming an impressive seven length win for the 25/1 shot.
Mullins looked set for a hat-trick of titles as his highly rated youngster Shaneshill went off as the 7/2 favourite in 2014. He looked good as he moved into the lead going into the final furlong, but it was Declan Weld’s Silver Concorde who was the stronger, moving ahead of his highly rated opponent and securing a win from a 16/1 starting price.
In 2015 Moon Racer became the first favourite to win the race in a decade, going off at 7/2 to provide Tom Scudamore and David Pipe with their first winner of the week. Despite being held up near the rear for the majority of the race, he soon dragged himself into contention, drawing level with the three leaders, before edging a length or so ahead for the win.
Nigel Twiston-Davies won the 2016 renewal of the race with the very talented Ballyandy and with his son Sam Twiston-Davies in the saddle. Sent off a 5/1 shot, he got the better of the Willie Mullins trained Battleford by a flared nostril in what was a remarkable finish.