A race that is growing in stature with the winners it’s provided in recent years. Who will join the likes of Florida Pearl, Cue Card and Champagne Fever on the illustrious list in 2014?
What happened in 2013?
Quite how the markets allowed a Willie Mullins-trained horse ridden by Ruby Walsh to go off at 25/1 is a bit of a mystery.
Those that followed the obvious play at gigantic prices were left celebrating as Briar Hill romped away with the Bumper in the colours of Graham Wylie, who also won the first race of the day on Wednesday with Back In Focus.
Mullins, who had won seven of the previous 16 runnings of this race, had openly admitted before the race that despite having Walsh on board, Briar Hill was his fourth string on what he had shown at home before the race.
His homework may not be sparkling but judging by this performance, he comes alive at the racecourse as he powered clear of a decent bumper field to win by an ever increasing seven lengths.
The further he went, the better he was and he looks a very exciting staying prospect if continuing this type of form over hurdles.
It was the fourth time Mullins had thrown more than one horse into the Champion Bumper and rather significantly, the third time that his supposed first string had been beaten by a lesser fancied runner.
Regal Encore looked the winner with two to jump under AP McCoy as he travelled beautifully, however despite running on well in the straight, he was no match for the winner in the final 200 yards.
The strength of this race was shown by fourth placed The Liquidator, who went onto win the Punchestown Bumper. Trainer David Pipe has big plans for him over hurdles this season.
2014 Major Players
The likely big hitters for this prize won’t be seen in public until nearer the Festival. Please feel free to return here nearer the race for a lowdown on all the big challengers.
Betting advice: strong race trends
There have been six winners that have gone off bigger than 11/1 in the last eight years and from a betting point of view this race is littered with dangers as horses of this inexperience are likely to improve on what they have shown in the careers so far.
The perfect being last year’s winner, who trainer Mullins didn’t even think was good enough to win – if Willie doesn’t even know, then punters don’t stand a chance.
Ireland have usually ruled to roost in this race in recent years, winning nine of the last 11 renewals.
When there’s an Irish Cheltenham Bumper winner you can guarantee the genius Mullins probably had something to do with it.
Of the eight Mullins winners of the race, six of them had won their only ever start on the flat under rules.
Beware of big distance small field bumper winners coming into this race. Horses can look like world beaters when beating a five or six runners off a slow gallop by 100+ lengths, but the reality states that horses need to have experience and have shown ability in running in big field bumper fields before coming to Cheltenham.
Of the 21 winners, all but four won a bumper that had more than 14 competitors.
Ante post tip
Bookmakers have yet to price up this market as there is little point in doing so as its nigh-on impossible at this stage to plan which horses will undertake this challenge.
February will be the time to start plotting a punting angle on this race, starting with the Mullins challengers looks a good place to start.