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the grand finale, the John Smith's Champion Bumper

OK, so it's not officially called the Champion Bumper but the proper title is too darn long as you'll see below... Making his debut previewing on the blog is Jim, @jimgilch.

5.35: John Smith´s Champion Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race Grade 2 (CLASS 1) (4-6yo) 20 runners 2m1f Good.

A different Tent

My original post selected a non-runner! Here is my new offering

Given that six of the last seven renewals of this race have been won by horses priced at 14/1 or bigger, this is traditionally no easy puzzle to unravel. For the purposes of the preview I am assuming the ground to be mainly good to soft, but not dead.

Unlike a lot of bumpers, I would expect the pace angle here to be a strong one. Both of the McCain horses, Howaboutnow and Ifyousayso made all on their last starts, so an element of team tactics could come into play. It's surprising given improving ground conditions that Jason Maguire prefers the former, which looks more of a soft ground performer. Both would have solid chances, but i think one or two might have too much turn of foot.

Nicky Henderson's Flags winner Minella for Fitness was impressive at Kempton when romping away with a bumper last month, and clocking a fair time, but Barry Geragthy opts for the stable's other runner, My Tent or Your's. The horse was just beaten at Newbury last time, but the form looks decent, and that was a valuable race. Making relentless ground over the last half mile of that contest, before just getting tired close home and hanging slightly, against a horse that was a two time winner previously. The pair drew clear that day. Stable form would be a slight concern but of the older generation (5 and 6 year olds have won this race on 8 of the last nine occasions) this horse looks a promising contender.

John Ferguson has made a splash in his first full season and he saddles Population. I think this is a serious contender. Tony McCoy rode Minella for Fitness at Kempton, but presumably opts for this horse instead. Both of this Noverre gelding's wins at Ascot have been impressive. This is a very different track, and the horse has not been seen since November, however the stable had a double at Huntingdon on Wednesday. My concern is that the second, Be All Man,while it did win next time, has been outclassed a few times since. Incidentally, look out for John Ferguson leading the horse up in the preliminaries, he is not far off 100% when doing so this season!

I've kept the four year olds to last. It's a real shame that there are no Irish raiders so the collateral form will not be tested directly. Morning Royalty was beaten 19 lengths on Monday at Fairyhouse behind the best bumper horse I have seen this season, (and possibly for a few years), Don Cossack, but Willie Mullins has taken his horse out overnight.

Devon Drum won in a fast time at Newbury, putting in some excellent fractions from the home turn in particular, beating a Nicky Henderson debutant easily. Paul Webber isn't one to overtry his horses, so the horse should be taken seriously. Its relative inexperience would be the issue.

Another danger is the Cheltenham bumper sixth, The New One (four time winner Sir Johnson among those renewing rivalry but was well beaten that day). Has some aforementioned stats to overcome, but brings a strong form profile to the table here. That was a superb effort, but the horse was outpaced turning for home before staying on again resolutely and this track might prove rather sharp. Had previously won the New Year's Day bumper at the same track (form not worked out, but it took a while to do so last year as well, when Keys and Cinders and Ashes fought out the finish). These two runs entitle the horse to respect here.

I prefer the horse to the pair of dual soft ground winners, My Inheritance and Stock Hill Fair, but it would be no surprise to see money for Charlie Longsdon's Spirit of Shankly (non-runner), a winner in a very decent time at Stratford. The second there, Island Magee, was third in last season's Punchestown bumper and may well head there again this time round.

VERDICT:

The shortlist consists of Population, My Tent or Yours and The New One, while cases can be made for Minella for Fitness and Devon Drum.

In conclusion then, I'd like to have seen the last win of Population work out a bit better, but MY TENT OR YOUR'S split a pair of previous two-time winners in first and fourth at Newbury in a valuable contest. The form is probably slightly more reliable than the Cheltenham bumper in which The New One ran well.

At the prices, at time of typing, 2points win 1 point e/w on MY TENT OR YOURS (6/1 Corals).

Postscript:
Incidentally if My Tent Or Yours goes close here, as I expect, then I think the Chepstow bumper is likely to be won by the Newbury third, Kalani King, who ran a belter on debut in that hot race. Infact, as long as Chepstow avoids the worst of the showers, (by Ashkalani, rain would be a very likely negative) that would be my bet of the day.

Thanks to all readers and especial thanks to 'Boris' for inviting me to do this preview!"

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