Cheltenham Festival – Champion Bumper

Cheltenham Festival - Champion Bumper The Champion Bumper is a National Hunt Flat race, run over a distance of an extended two miles on the New Course at Cheltenham and is currently scheduled as the final race on day two of the four-day Cheltenham Festival, which also features the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Ever since its inauguration, as the ‘Festival Bumper’, in 1992, the Champion Bumper – which has been sponsored by Weatherbys since 1997 – has been hotly contested and, as such, has proved a valuable source of future winners. Historically, the Champion Bumper has thrown up several subsequent Grade One winners, including Florida Pearl and Cue Card. So in order to gear up towards Cheltenham tips for 2020, we thought we’d have a look at the winners of the race in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to see how they’ve fared since.

In 2017, Fayonagh, trained by Gordon Elliott, produced a strong run to beat Debuchet by 1¼ lengths with Claimantakinforgan a further 1½ lengths away in third. Fayonagh upheld the form by easily completing a Grade One double at Punchestown just over a month later and was not extended to win, at long odds-on, on her hurdling debut at Fairyhouse the following October. Sadly, less than three weeks later Fayonagh was dead, having to be put down after suffering a broken leg on the gallops at home.

In 2018, Relegate was the latest of nine winners for the leading trainer in the history of the Champion Bumper, Willie Mullins, staying on well from an uncompromising position with a furlong to run to win by a neck. The Flemensfirth mare subsequently finished a well-beaten seventh of ten, beaten 25 lengths at Punchestown and was beaten again, at 4/9, on her hurdling debut at Punchestown the following November. She did win a maiden hurdle, albeit narrowly, at Naas the following month, at odds-on, but was only fifth of sixteen, beaten seven lengths, when stepped back up to Grade One company at Leopardstown the following February.

In 2019, Envoi Allen was the second winner in three years for Gordon Elliott, finding extra near the finish to justify favouritism by three-quarters of a length from Blue Sari with Thyme Hill in third, beaten a further 1¼ lengths. Envoi Allen was sent straight over hurdles the following November and so far, is 3-3 over obstacles, including two Grade One wins; he remains a very smart prospect.

And so what does Cheltenham Festival 2020 have in store for us with regard to the Champion Bumper? The race is due to be held at 5:30pm on day two of the prestigious racing festival (11th March) and a little over a month out the market is starting to shape up. Clear favourite to win right now is the versatile Appreciate It at 9/4 with most bookmakers. Its closest rivals according to the market are Panic Attack at 9/1 and Israel Champ at 10/1. It’s no great surprise to see the Willie Mullins horse so short and strolling to victory in the Goffs Future Stars (C&G) I.N.H. Flat Race certainly didn’t hurt his cause. Then again, the Champion Bumper is notorious for under-performing favourites. As always, time will tell!

Who’s the Greatest?

Who’s the Greatest? The history of horse racing is packed to the rafters with famous, highly regarded thoroughbreds, all remarkable in their own right, and comparing one with another, especially from different eras, is a subjective and futile exercise. However, just for fun, here are the top three racehorses that I have been fortunate to witness ‘in the flesh’ during my lifetime.

Sea The Stars

Awarded a Timeform Annual Rating of ‘just’ 140, Sea The Stars was beaten on his racecourse debut in a maiden, over 7 furlongs, at the Curragh, but thereafter embarked on an unbeaten run of eight, including six consecutive Group One races during his three-year-old campaign. Owned by Christopher Tsui and trained by John Oxx, he completed the 2,000 Guineas – Derby double, before dropping back in distance to win the Coral-Eclipse, the Juddmonte International Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes, and rounding off his career with an impressive win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, back over a mile and a half. He was described by Ian Balding, trainer of Mill Reef, as ‘a perfect specimen’.

Dancing Brave

Owned by Prince Khalid Abdulla and trained by Guy Harwood, Dancing Brave was beaten just twice in his ten-race career, once when the victim of an ill-judged ride by the late Greville Starkey in the Derby and once when suffering an eye injury during the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park. His eight career victories included the 2,000 Guineas, the Coral-Eclipse, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Frankel

The ‘daddy of them all’, unbeaten in 14 races and awarded a Timeform Annual Rating of 147, the highest achieved by any horse since the publication of the first ‘Racehorses’ annual in 1948. Owned, like Dancing Brave, by Prince Khalid Abdulla, and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel won ten Group One races between 7 furlongs and 1 mile 2½ furlongs, including a 6-length win in the 2,000 Guineas.

How to Pick a Winner in Seconds

How to Pick a Winner in Seconds If you like to have a flutter, but don’t have the time or inclination to pore through the form book, why not try this ‘quick and dirty’ method for picking winners, which will work with the horse racing page of any daily newspaper.

 

Only consider the first three horses in the betting. If you have access to an accurate betting forecast, such as that in the Racing Post or, better still, access to real bookmakers’ prices, all well and good. If not, you’ll have to rely on the betting forecast in your daily newspaper which, while less accurate, will work just as well for the purposes of making selections.

 

Horse racing is notoriously unpredictable, so always allow one point, or ‘evens’, for the unexpected. In other words, don’t bet odds-on; if you do, and the horse wins, you’ll probably find yourself more relieved at not losing your money than overjoyed at winning.

Look at the last two form figures or letters for each horse and add them up. Count letters – such as F, P, S, and U, all of which indicate the horse failed to complete the course – as 10 and if any of the figures is a 0 count that as 10, too. So, a horse that finished first on its last two starts would have an initial rating of 1 + 1 = 2, a horse that finished first and second would have an initial rating of 1 + 2 = 3, and so on; a horse that finished unplaced and/or failed to complete the course on its last two starts would have an initial rating of 10 + 10 = 20 but, apart from exceptional circumstances, probably wouldn’t feature in the first three in the betting in any case.

The letters C, D or CD after the name of the horse indicate a course winner, distance winner or course and distance winner, which may have a better chance of winning. Subtract 1 for a C, 1 for a D and 2 for CD, where appropriate, from your initial ratings to produce final ratings. The horse with the lowest rating is your selection or, if two or more horses share the same rating, the horse with the highest racecard number is your selection.

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader The Polytrack at Kempton Park, which was refurbished in 2015, 2016 and 2018, is a right-handed oval, consisting of an inner and an outer loop, measuring 10 furlongs and 8 furlongs respectively. The inner loop, over which races of the minimum distance are run, features a relatively short run to a tight, sweeping bend leading to a short home straight, less than a quarter of a mile in length.

Consequently, over 5 furlongs, horses trying to come from off the pace are at a disadvantage with those who race on, or close to, the pace, provided of course that the leaders do not go off too fast and ‘cut one another’s throats’ at the head of affairs. The latter situation is more likely to occur if there are two, or three, forward-racing types in opposition, so beware of any such race.

In fact, roughly one in three horses that makes the running over 5 furlongs at Kempton holds on to win. Unsurprisingly, the 5-furlong course record, 58.07 seconds, set in April, 2018, is held by A Momentofmadness, who made all the running from stall 3.

In terms of draw bias, the speedy, handy type who breaks quickly from a low draw is always likely to hold all the aces. Logically, horses drawn low are positioned next to the inside rail and, provided they run in a more or less straight line from start to finish, cover a shorter distance than those drawn middle or high.

Even so, a low draw is no longer a prerequisite for winning over 5 furlongs at Kempton.

Provided a horse drawn middle or high breaks quickly enough to lead, without expending too much energy in the early stages, its jockey can steer a course towards the inside rail and gain a similar advantage to a front-runner drawn low in the first place.