Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Champion Bumper preview

Some people love it, others hate it - it's the Champion Bumper. I quite like it as there are no obstacles to get in the way! The team at @cheltofestival have helped me out again with this thorough preview:

Mathew Waters previews the Champion Bumper
note - written before final declarations, so runners and prices may differ.

In the 19 runnings of this race, significant trends have emerged. It has been a strong race for the Irish, with 14 Irish winners (6 from Willie Mullins alone), from only around a third of the runners. It has also generally been a race for fancied runners with 14 of the 19 coming from the top 6 in the betting. Unlike other races at the Festival, horses put away for this race have fared very well, with 5 of the last 9 races won by horses that had not run since previous Boxing Day. 16 of the 19 winners had won at least one previous bumper with 14 or more runners.

Moscow Mannon (8/1) – Possesses the highest RPR and Topspeed ratings in the field. More experienced than many, winning three from four races. Flexible to ground, winning on good ground as well as soft/heavy. All wins thus far have come with an amateur taking off 7lbs (not permitted in Grade 1 yet jockey confirmed). Has never run left handed.

Champagne Fever (8/1) – The lowest priced Willie Mullins runner, despite Mullins saying as recently as early February that he thought Mozoltov (now 33/1) was his best Bumper horse this season prior to his defeat to Clonbanan Lad. Champagne Fever was beaten as an odds on chance on Boxing Day (victors only win from 3 but not run since and not entered for this) before winning a 9 runner race as 1/4F in January. Won that by 13 lengths but other 8 runners hold a combined 0-23 record.

Royal Guardsman (10/1) – Coming from the same stable as Cue Card, has attracted a lot of attention. Two wins from three, all on good or good to soft. The most recent win was highly acclaimed with many jockeys claiming it was as good a bumper as they had raced in this season – RG was the 7l winner. However his sole defeat was 4th in a race won by Sir Johnson who is 25/1 for this race, when also receiving 7lb from the winner.

New Years Eve (12/1) – This winner of two small field Bumpers (7 and 9 runners) in 2012 will be in receipt of 8lb age allowance. Was odds on for both of these wins and ridden by a 5lb claimer each time so not unexpected victories. Most recently beat Swinging Sultan by 8l, a horse beaten by Sir Johnson by 61l in the October race mentioned above.

Pique Sous (12/1) – Another Willie Mullins runner. Finished third in high value Fairyhouse bumper last April (Lyreen Legend who has subsequently done OK over hurdles finished 9th) and won only race since at Leopardstown in February on good to soft ground. Whilst giving weight all round in that win, he was favourite for that race and the other 11 runners are a combined 0-24 under rules.

The New One (16/1) – Unbeaten in two races, he will be receiving the 8lb age allowance. Won the New Years Day Bumper at Cheltenham but this is 2½ furlongs further. 5 others within that Cheltenham field of 15 had either won previously or have won since. Course experience a plus but potentially has stamina to prove.

Horatio Hornblower (20/1) – Another 4 year old receiving the allowance, finished third in his only run to date, at Newbury in February. Beaten that day by the unbeaten Shutthefrontdoor (not entered at Cheltenham) and Village Vic (best priced 16/1, see below). There were a number of previous winners in that race so the form could be good but historically most Cheltenham Bumper winners had won at least once prior to the Festival.

Fickle Fortune (16/1) – Will be getting every help, in receipt of both the 8lb age and 7lb sex allowance. Only run has been a recent heavy ground success at Down Royal. The win was done very easily but no form lines with other entrants and other 11 runners in that field hold a combined record of 0-26. Unexposed but little firm evidence to go on.

Village Vic (16/1) – Won first race under rules, a comfortable winner in field of 6 at Chepstow on heavy ground. At Newbury on good to soft in February he lost by only a short head to the unbeaten Shutthefrontdoor but in the process beat Horatio Hornblower (20/1 for this) and 6 previous winners, giving weight to some of them. That could prove to be good form.

Clonbanan Lad (20/1) – Holds the joint second highest RPR of the field and unbeaten after two races under rules. Both of those races were won easily but on soft to heavy and heavy ground. The first of these races has produced three subsequent winners but the second was too recent to provide an indication thus far.

Population (20/1) – Two from two for John Ferguson, both on good ground at Ascot. Both wins had the jockey claiming 5lbs but the more recent race (November) has produced 3 subsequent winners, with 4 wins and 9 places from 27 runs between the field. None of that form closely ties to others in this field. A fairly unexposed option.

My Tent Or Yours (25/1) – A Nicky Henderson runner that won his first race comfortably in December before being beaten the first weekend of March by the unbeaten Up To Something (Available at 40s for this race). Raced keenly in the first race before hanging left in the second. Relatively unexposed but If considering this horse, then serious thought also needs to be given to his March victor.

Sir Johnson (25/1) – Unbeaten in 4 races from good to soft to firm. Unseen since defeating Royal Guardsman and 4 other subsequent winners (from field of 17) at Aintree on October 23rd. That was a Class 6 race but form has been franked. Trainer Peter Bowen is 7-24 in Bumpers this season (this horse does account for 4 of these admittedly) and 12 of the 24 have finished 4th or better.

Since writing the preview, Jezki completed a workmanlike odds on victory at Leopardstown on Sunday. This saw his odds dropped slightly to 16/1 but having watched the race there was not enough to significantly change my view on this race.

Conclusion: Those at the top of the betting do not appear to have rock solid form in the book to justify their market leading status. I suspect they are there as much on trainer reputation, hype and potential as they are on performances to date. As such I am keen to look at those horses with at least as good form but housed with smaller, less fashionable trainers. A number of the horses that have not raced in 2012 also appear to have been forgotten in the market and may represent value.

Sir Johnson fits very much into that criteria and also has a shrewd trainer and good jockey on his side. Available at 25/1, NRNB and BOG, that appears to be very good each way value on the basis of his beating of Royal Guardsman in his most recent outing.

Other horses of interest include Village Vic to upset pretty much every trend in the book following his short head defeat to Shutthefrontdoor at Newbury and the unexposed and as yet untested pair of Population and Clonbanan Lad.

Champagne Fever is the horse I will be laying. Always dangerous opposing a Willie Mullins bumper horse but I believe his place in the market is largely down to his trainer’s history and reputation rather than anything he has done thus far on the track and was not considered the trainer’s first string until a month ago.

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