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!