The only flat race to be run at the Cheltenham Festival, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper steadily gained in prestige and it always pays to take a look at the form of the Festival bumper with a view to hurdling form in the years ahead.
The first winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper was Montelado, who achieved what is thought to be the unique feat of winning two consecutive Festival races. The Bumper, now run on Wednesday, was originally the last race of the Festival. Montelado went on to win the opening race of the 1993 Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The race attracts plenty of different types and occasionally you will spot a well-known flat jockey having a ride in the race – Jamie Spencer won the 2002 event on Pizarro for Edward O’Grady and Pat Smullen better known for his flat exploits took the ride on Hidden Universe last year for Dermot Weld.
Since 1992, 11 Champion Bumper winners have returned to the Festival the next year, three of whom won their Festival race (Montelado won the Supreme Novice Hurdle, Florida Pearl won the RSA Chase and Monsignor won what is now the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle).
The Champion Bumper is certainly a good breeding ground for Cheltenham horses for the future and anyone looking for Paul Nicholls tips for a few years down the line may want to keep track of the event.
In 2010 we had the first non-Irish winner of the race since 1993 when Cue Card simply blew his rivals away, he also became the first four year old to win the race since Dato Star in 1995. He was undeniably impressive always travelling easily and striding away up the hill. Al Ferof completed a UK 1-2 albeit from a distance of 8 lengths away. Best of the Irish was the somewhat unheralded, but relatively experienced, Frawley.
The favourite, Shot From The Hip ended up well back in 20th as he pulled too hard and ruined his chances as a result.
The Irish are dominant here, having trained 14 of the last 18 winners. Willie Mullins has a particularly good record and shouldn’t be overlooked going into the Cheltenham Festival 2011.
Even after the Cue Card demolition last year it should really pay to concentrate on the Irish runners and to dismiss runner that were beaten last time out. The race generally attracts a big field and the majority of the runners have won in double figure fields, highlighting the need to have experienced some hustle and bustle before. Once raced horses, unless trained by Willie Mullins, should also be crossed off the list of contenders.