Like every other year before it the Champion Bumper 2017 presents an intricate puzzle to solve, and it feels like this year there is no real standout star amongst the bumper ranks.
Only three 4-year-olds have won this race in its history, two of those turned out to be out of the top drawer in Dato Star and Cue Card, so were a 4-year-old able to win next week you’d have to look favourably on them for the future.
Champion Bumper 2017
Martaline x Saxona (Jade Robbery)
Notes: A winner of his two bumpers for Willie Mullins after progressing from the point-to-point sphere, he has looked impressive on both occasions and certainly has a favourites chance on what we’ve seen so far. Versatile tactically he should have no problems with the forecast quicker ground and can give backers cause for optimism.
Kalanisi x Fair Ina (Taipan)
Notes: A winner of a bumper for his previous trainer before switching to Gordon Elliott and her new owner at the end of January. Soon followed that up with a devastating display in thrashing her rivals in a listed bumper by 20 lengths, and is very much a major player in this – and will be ridden by Jamie Codd.
Black Sam Bellamy x Like Manner (Teenoso)
Notes: Second on his bumper debut behind Cilaos Emery, a horse which looks set to run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for Willie Mullins on Tuesday. He wasn’t seen again until February where he got the job done under Kate Harrington to score by a half-length. The time for that race was nothing more than fair but displayed a nice attitude under pressure, and one you can expect to run well in this race.
Khalkevi x Viana (Signe Divin)
Notes: Has seen a fair amount of support in the market over the last couple of weeks and heads into The Festival as one of the chief UK hopes in this race. Dan Skelton has tasted Festival success before and the impression given by this horse on his debut at Warwick as an impressive one, right in the mix.
Westerner x Seesea (Dr Massini)
Notes: Seen as by many as the chief hope for the UK in lifting this prize but as always with the Warren Greatrex yard they are vastly under-priced and overestimating of their chances. Whilst showing a fair level of ability in his races he needs to improve to trouble some of the main yet less experienced rivals and it’s difficult to envisage him winning.
West Coast Time
Westerner x Refinement (Oscar)
Notes: Beautifully bred out of a wonderful racemare in Refinement. He made his debut with a most impressive victory at Cork at the start of the year. Was below that form when second to Carter McKay at Naas a month later, but was messed around during the race at a vital stage, and will have learnt plenty from that exercise. The better ground and true pace will suit him, and Joseph O’Brien has booked a shrewd jockey in Davy Russell.
Bakmaj second on his debut for Peter Fahey behind Carter McKay, before being purchased by Barry Connell and sent to Alan Fleming prior to his victory at Leopardstown towards the end of January. Difficult to assess if he’s improved much for the switch but is a dark horse here given his proximity to Carter McKay and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Irish Roe a winner of three bumpers doing everything asked of her to date, will need to find further improvement from somewhere if she is to figure here, but I worry that what we’ve seen of her so far is as good as she is.
Go Another One an impressive winner of two bumpers after gradually from the point-to-point circuit. He hasn’t been seen since August 2016 and has clearly been kept back for better ground, John McConnell wouldn’t be coming here for the sake of it so has to be respected and one at prices I thought would give a bold account.
Whilst everything we’ve seen on the track to date points towards a Carter McKay, I do feel that at around the 10/3 mark he is priced accordingly, and if anything is very much on the short side in a race which is well known for throwing up a shock.
For that reason, I cannot entertain him at the prices, and with Western Ryder seriously short at second in around the 8/1 mark, he too can be skipped over.
Someday and Cause Toujours in particular start to get interesting given what we’ve seen so far but I cant help imagine there is something else in here capable of landing a blow.
Fayonagh is one who comes to mind, having shown vast improvement since switching to Gordon Elliott. Would be the first mare to win since Harry Molly in 2006 but there’s every chance she could be good enough – Jamie Codd rides.
Bakmaj remains and unknown but the one I keep coming back to is WEST COAST TIME, who suffered defeat behind Carter McKay last time out but things didn’t really go to plan for him at crucial stages in the race and he can be forgiven that defeat.
The forecasted decent ground will be a blessing for this gelded son of Westerner, out of Refinement who excelled on a faster surface, herself finishing 2nd and 4th in two Champion Bumper attempts.
Another string to the bow is the booking of Davy Russell, who will surely have had the prospect of riding a few in this race, but the fact he has chosen the Michael Tabor owned gelding has to suggest that they quietly fancy their chances.