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The Champion Bumper offers a first look at true fledgling horses in an elite competition for the first time at Cheltenham Festival.
Only horses between the ages of four and six can compete in the flat race. In the past the meet has seen the breakout of horses of the ilk of Cue Card and Champagne Fever.
There are a promising crop of competitors ready to take to the stage, and it’s no surprise to see Willie Mullins enter the race with one of the leading contenders.
Mullins has won the race more times than any other trainer, taking his tally to nine last season when Relegate clinched the crown. Expect him to be in the running for another win at Cheltenham Festival in the event.
We’ll now break down the leading contenders for the Champion Bumper and offer our ante-post tip.
The French-bred horse has been considered the bookmakers’ favourite for the event. He has three races under his belt this term and has won all of them, highlighting his credentials for Cheltenham Festival. Gordon Elliott does have pedigree in the Bumper, having trained the late Fayonagh to victory in 2017. Envoi Allen is capable of achieving the same level of success as he bids to make an impact on the major stage for the first time. He made his first appearance of the campaign in flat race at Fairyhouse and delivered a confident performance with Jamie Codd in the saddle, cantering to an impressive victory by four lengths.
Envoi Allen was faced with a stronger field in the Future Champions Flat Race at Navan. The French-bred horse was on form once again with Codd at the reins, although he did have a tussle with Midnight Run before pulling clear down the stretch to record his second triumph on the bounce. Elliott’s charge made a statement with a fine performance at the Matheson. He controlled the race before surging down the stretch to claim the win ahead of Meticulous. In a closely-contested meet, his relative experience over the rest of the field could be vital.
Mullins sends Blue Sari to the event with only one race under his belt. Relegate had a similar level of experience before entering the Champion Bumper last season. The Mullins factor come into the equation given his level of success in the race, although his victory with Relegate last season was his first triumph in five years. It does suggest that the rest of the trainers in the National Hunt have made strides to catch Mullins in the race.
However, he remains the best and Blue Sari’s only race was extremely encouraging given the manner of his display. He was a slight outsider at 15/8 to win the P.J. Foley Memorial Flat Race at Gowran Park and Patrick Mullins in the saddle ensured that his charge produced an excellent performance. Blue Sari made steady strides before pulling away down the stretch to finish 11 lengths ahead of second-place Front View. The bay gelding could be the next Mullins horse to enter the winners’ enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival event.
Harry Fry sends Get In The Queue into the event with two races and two victories under his belt. The bay gelding made his first appearance in a flat race at Uttoxeter. Michael Legg in the saddle brought his charge gradually through the field before pulling clear of the race favourite North Star Oscar. One furlong out, he was able to up the ante to deliver a dominant victory, finishing nine lengths ahead of his rival to claim the win. Noel Fehily took the reins last time out at Exeter. Being only three weeks before Cheltenham Festival, Fry appeared eager to give his charge another run.
Get In The Queue did not disappoint as he rose to the occasion after being installed as the leading contender. He established an early rhythm and was able to lay down a speed that saw him take the lead three furlongs into the meet. The bay gelding did not relinquish his advantage, cantering over the line 16 lengths ahead of his nearest challenger. Get In The Queue has the raw potential, but whether it’s enough to win the event remains to be seen.
The bay gelding had a good start to his fledgling career, although when the level of competition has been elevated he has struggled to keep pace. Joseph O’Brien’s charge made his bow at Killarney in the Christy Lucey Transport Limited Flat Race. He was the favourite for the race and he made an immediate impact with a strong performance to clinch the victory by nine lengths.
Meticulous returned to action after five months out and was one of the leading contenders for the O’Driscoll O’Neil Insurance Brokers Flat Race.
However, he failed to find his rhythm and finished off the pace down in fourth at Leopardstown. O’Brien’s charge was backed as a 20/1 outsider for the event, and although he put forward a fine performance with Barry O’Neill in the saddle, Meticulous finished one-and-three-quarter lengths behind Envoi Allen. It suggests that he might not be ready for the challenge of Elliott’s charge At Cheltenham Festival.
Envoi Allen has impressed with his performances in his fledgling career, but raw speed and potential of Blue Sari is alluring, especially given his value. Get In The Queue has the wins, but perhaps not the standard of performances of the two leading contenders for the crown. Meticulous proved that he could not cope with the elite speed of Envoi Allen last time out.
Given the proximity of the two races, it’s unlikely that a great deal will change unless something unexpected occurs on the track. The contest should come between Blue Sari and Envoi Allen, and given Mullins history in the race, back the former to emerge with the win at odds of 5/1 6.00 +500 5.00 5.00 -0.20 with 888Sport.