The Champion Bumper, the only flat race at the Festival, is the finale of day two. Not only does it attract some of the main jockeys from the Flat, but some of the most exciting young horses in training. Despite only having a seventeen year history, it has seen winners like Florida Pearl, Monsignor, Cousin Vinny and Dunguib. It has also seen the likes of French Holly, Thisthatandtother, Rhinestone Cowboy, Witchita Lineman, Albertas Run and Fiveforthree compete. Last seasons renewal sees the first five home all likely to return to the Festival, with major chances, particularly Dunguib and Rite Of Passage who are likely to be warm order favourites. Open to horses between 4 and 6 years of age, run over an extended two mile trip and worth £60,000, let’s take a look through the main contenders of this years field.
Firstly, I am not a person who takes much interest in trends but even the most naïve of gamblers must know you can’t preview the Cheltenham Festival without outlining the key trends associated with each race. With that in mind:
15 of the last 17 winners won their last race.
14 of the last 17 winners have been trained in Ireland.
5 is the magic number with 10 winners of that age.
Willie Mullins is the trainer to follow with 5 wins. (plus one as a jockey)
Dermot Weld was confident of winning last years renewal but had to settle for third and sixth, as Dunguib destroyed the field. However, he will be heading back just as confident this year, topping the market again, this time with two potentially very smart horses. In truth though, there are no great standouts in this year’s field and it looks an average renewal.
Definite Article (UK) – Talina’s Law (IRE) (Law Society (USA)
Notes: Nice horse who finished second on debut, beaten by Tornedo Shay, who has gone on to do pretty well since. He ran well in defeat and no surprise to see him victorious when returning at the back end of last year. Still looked a touch green that day, but did it nicely, and form of the race has been ok since. He meets the three main trends above, has solid form but trainer has issued a ground warning (*see Hidden Universe below for details) regarding his possible participation along with the likelihood he may not run both his market leaders.
Linamix (FR) – Hint Of Humour (USA) (Woodman (USA)
Notes: Cost €150,000 as a yearling and is a smart horse who bolted in on debut at the beginning of the year in heavy ground. He cruised through the race with ease and showed a really impressed ability to quicken right away when asked. Form of the race an unknown with only one runner appearing since but well regarded by his master trainer. Just like his stable mate, a ground warning has been issued, and it appears that unless soft or worse, he will not take his chance.
Dermot Weld’s comments – Click here to read them (Sporting Life)
Dom Alco (FR) – Maralta (FR) (Altayan (IRE)
Notes: Third on debut, before bolting up by ten lengths at Fairyhouse. Picked up by Paul Nicholls shortly after, but this is one of the only Festival races he is yet to make much of an impact on. Winner of the Winter Bumper at Newbury this afternoon, he was quite impressive. Could be a player if taking his chance, but I’m passing him over.
Presenting (UK) – Hazlewood (IRE) (Supreme Leader (UK)
Notes: Highly regarded by trainer and made a favourable impression when smart winner on debut in October at Fairyhouse. Form working out quite well but his preparation has been hindered by weather. His trainers’ keenness to get another run into him is a bit of a worry and a failure to do so may see him skip the race.
Accordion (IRE) – Native Artist (IRE) (Be My Native (USA)
Notes: She was a nice winner on debut of a competitive mares race at Punchestown in October. Entered in a Mares Listed event at Navan, she was given an enormous amount to do entering the straight but stayed on strongly to finish second. Back at Punchestown in December, she spread-eagled another mares only field, winning by half the track. Her twenty-four length winning margin prompted her trainer to say afterwards she ‘may be the best mare he has ever trained’. No ground worries, but will be facing males for the first time and if regular partner takes the ride again, I would only be interested at bigger odds than those available. Only two other mares have won this race.
Up Ou That
Alderbrook (UK) – Delnac (IRE) (Lucifer (USA)
Notes: May have only beaten three rivals on debut in January this year, but was as impressive as could be. Traveled well, and lengthened away in the heavy ground really nicely, and of course, trainers record in this race not exactly a negative, although hard to access what he actually achieved in his win. Is also a winner of a two and a half mile maiden point to point, and looks best of the Mullins team at the moment; Don’t Turn Bach seems an unlikely starter, but there is lots of interest around the unraced Quaquo De Flotte.
Alderbrook (UK) – Delnac (IRE) (Lucifer (USA)
Notes: Beautifully bred horse who made a comfortable enough winning debut. Runner up a fortnight later to Jacques Vert giving him 7lb, but comfortably reversed those placings when winning on New Years Day at Cheltenham. Course form a big plus and traveled well throughout. The race has worked out well but yet to run over more than a mile six. No ground concerns and looks a bigger price than should be.
Flemensfirth (USA) – Supreme Baloo (IRE) (Supreme Leader (UK)
Notes: Former point to point winner who’s likely to be the Dungannon based trainers’ only representative in the Cotswolds. Wide margin winner in a maiden, and remains unbeaten by adding another two wins to his collection. Last time a winner in a Grade 2 race at Navan, when clinging on from Tornedo Shay, and the form of his wins is looking solid enough. Trainer hasn’t given the impression he is hugely confident of much though and despite good prices available, he’s not one I’m interested in.
Forty Foot Tom went of 25/1 when annihilating the opposition at Navan by a whopping twenty-four lengths. Subsequently sold for £220,000, his odds of 25/1 look too big to me.
Quaquo De Flotte has always been prominent in the betting amid whispers of being Willie Mullins secret weapon, but is yet to be unleashed. Similarly, Day Of A Lifetime has been quietly touted for the same trainer and is due to debut towards the end of February.
The J P McManus recent acquisition Made In Time, reportedly purchased on the recommendation of AP McCoy, was a nice winner at Ffos Las in January, but finished runner up to Al Ferof in the Newbury Winter Bumper earlier today. Dragons Roost, impressive on debut could only finish seventh in the same race, a run which probably scuppers his chances. Similar comments apply to the fifth, Ramses De Marcigny.
The third home, Carpincho, who had good Irish point form and beat the regarded Some Fool on debut, might have been my each way pick, but his run today, though alright, has put me off.
Dunraven Storm won well on debut but will need vast improvement to win here and I feel similar about Sizing Mexico.
Age Benefit may be the best of the big outsiders and is well liked by his trainer while German bred Shot From The Hip may fall into a similar category but looks unlikely to appear.
Prince Of Pirates entered calculations when winning yesterday but looked so fit beforehand, it’s likely he will go backwards now and is ignored. I would expect stablemate Bobs Worth, who finished a close second to him, to reverse the positions if they both run but don’t expect either to really land a blow.
Although possible we have yet to see the winner run, I can’t help but feel Dermot Weld may be holding a couple of aces. The question at this point is which one will he play. On decent ground, ELEGANT CONCORDE would be my likely winner and I can’t see him going off anywhere near the 7/1 available right now. In recent days, Hidden Universe has been well backed, and certainly on soft or worse, his debut impressed me so much I would be firmly in his camp. However, with the doubts over which one of the Weld duo will run on the day, and a lack of a real standout candidate elsewhere, I would advise waiting till much nearer the day before making a play, or alternatively backing them both now.
That’s not to say the current market doesn’t offer value somewhere. Forty Foot Tom was so devastating on debut that his odds of 25/1 are surely too big, but with just one run on heavy ground, I feel more comfortable giving my each way vote to Tetlami. He was an impressive winner at Cheltenham in January, has no concerns over ground, and although has slight stamina doubts, the 25/1 available at the moment more than covers them.