2021 Champion Bumper Tips – Elliott Can Outgun Mullins In Irish Benefit
2021 Champion Bumper Tips
The only race involving no obstacles is the closing race on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival. Daniel Overall is probably desperately trying to find a horse to beat the favourite. Let’s see if he’s managed it.
2021 Champion Bumper Overview
A race in which future champions are forged; the last four renewals have been dominated by Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins. Of the 16 to finish in the front four since 2017, eleven were trained by either Elliott or Mullins, with the pair both recording two wins.
Rather aptly, the pair dominate the market with two hugely exciting prospects in what could be one of the clashes of the week.
More Mullins Magic
With ten winners in the race, assessing Willie Mullins’ runners is the first port of call when looking at the Champion Bumper.
This year, his standout contender is Kilcruit, a horse with a real family connection. Bred by Willie’s mother and named after the townland where she grew up, formally trained by Tony Mullins, now with Willie and ridden by Patrick on all three starts to date; the Mullins dynasty is truly something special.
Beaten on here sole start for Tony Mullins (having been given a more than favourable mention at a 2020 Cheltenham Festival preview night), he won impressively on his debut for Willie before putting in a scintillating display at the Dublin Racing Festival. The race was very strongly run, but that did not inconvenience Kilcruit who travelled ominously well throughout the race. As push became shove on the leading duo, Patrick Mullins eased his mount into the lead inside the final two furlongs, as he coasted home to a visually stunning 12-length success.
Those forcing the pace did go too quick out in front, which did set the race up for Kilcruit, while it also backs up Patrick’s claim that “the front pair started to run as if under water”. Still, it was impossible not to be impressed with the way he cruised clear of one of the strongest bumper fields to have assembled so far this season, and he is a worthy favourite following that run.
Willie thought that Patrick chose the wrong one at Leopardstown, with Ramillies (33/1) being his preferred choice. While he remains a horse of potential moving forward, it’s difficult to see him reversing the form with Kilcruit.
Interestingly, Willie’s last five Champion Bumper winners all came at double-figure odds; with the first string often falling foul of a lesser fancied stablemate. Grangee (20/1) booked her ticket to Cheltenham with a surprise win in the Grade 2 Mares Bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival. Brandy Love (33/1) was seemingly the stable’s number one for that race, but there were no excuses for her on the day, with Grangee doing well to make up ground from the rear to lead close to home. Mares have done well in recent renewals of the Champion Bumper; Fayonagh and Relegate recorded victories for the girls in 2017 and 2018 while Queens Brook finished third last season.
Willie Mullins also has Belle Metal (25/1) who won her a four-year-old bumper by twelve-lengths, with the horse in third that day winning next time out. While she looks an exciting filly, only one four-year-old filly has run in the race in recent years; Panic Attack was a 10/1 chance for last year’s renewal following an impressive win in a listed race, but she could only finish eighteenth.
Elliott’s Embarrassment of Riches
Cheveley Park Stud have won the last two renewals of the Champion Bumper with Envoi Allen (2019) and Ferny Hollow (2020), becoming the first owner to win multiple renewals of the race. This year, they have another high-class prospect in the shape of Sir Gerhard.
Purchased for £400,000 following an impressive win in his sole point-to-point, he made a very taking impression on his first run under rules, coasting to a fourteen-length victory and soaring to the top of the betting for Cheltenham. Not as emphatic on his next start, he looked briefly as if he would struggle to reel in the long-time leader, but he soon picked up in the style of a very smart horse. That race was also won by Envoi Allen and bookmakers were quick to cut him for the Champion Bumper, with some going as short as 5/2.
The horse he beat by just over four-lengths last time out (in receipt of three pounds), Letsbeclearaboutit (20/1), was 12 lengths behind Kilcruit off level-weights at Leopardstown although it would be unfair to directly compare the winning margins without taking into account how each race was run. Both were comfortably on top of that rival at the finish, who is a very good horse in his own right, highlighting just how good the two market leaders are. Jamie Codd noted after Sir Gerhard’s win at Navan that “he’ll better on some nicer ground”, which his pedigree suggests he’ll appreciate.
Gordon also has Hollow Games (20/1), who was purchased for £250,000 following an emphatic win in his sole point-to-point. He beat The Banger Doyle on his first bumper start, who was second to Sir Gerhard on his previous run and has won subsequently. He made it two from two under rules beating another subsequent winner in Eurotiep in the style of a strong stayer. Jamie Codd noted that “he’s a staying horse for the future” but he was extremely complementary about him; he might not have the gears to win but you can envisage him staying on well at the finish.
Gerri Colombe (20/1) is another to note for the yard having won by 24 lengths on his sole bumper start to date. However, Elliott didn’t seem keen to commit to running him at Cheltenham, noting that “I don’t think you’ll see a whole lot more of Gerri Colombe this season”. Still, he’s another exciting horse for Robcour, who have an impressive string of young horses.
In contrast, Elliott was more intent on running Three Stripe Life (20/1) in the Champion Bumper. Visually impressive on his win at Navan, the horse he beat has since been purchased by Paul Nicholls. It will be interesting to see which of Elliott’s string turn up here, while the market may be the best guide to the chances of his outsiders.
Others to Consider
Grangee’s win at the Dublin Racing Festival paid a nice compliment to Eileendover (10/1) who beat her emphatically at Market Rasen. The Pam Sly trained four-year-old had been very impressive in two junior bumpers before taking the step up in class and trip in her stride at the Midlands track. Her trainer has stated that her star filly is unlikely to go to Cheltenham, with Aintree being the target.
Paul Nicholls has only had ten runners here since 2003. Listed winner Knappers Hill (33/1) is rumoured to be going to the Grade 2 bumper at Aintree rather than here. Petrossian (33/1) was an impressive winner on his sole start but given his trainers general reluctance to run in Champion Bumper, he too would seem an unlikely runner.
I Am Maximus (33/1) beat My Drogo in a Cheltenham bumper earlier in the year which looks like good form now. Not seen since that win in October, Nicky Henderson said that “He’s a big raw horse…I wouldn’t think he’s a Champion Bumper horse”.
With that in mind, the best of the British could well be Elle Est Belle (33/1) – although this race looks to be predominately about the Irish.
Champion Bumper Big-Race Verdict
A fascinating race headed by two potential stars for Mullins and Elliott. Kilcruit is the rightful favourite after his impressive win at the Dublin Racing Festival but the sectionals do tell us that the race fell apart. In a recent interview, Patrick Mullins revealed that Kilcruit does less work than all of the other horses at Willie’s yard as they struggle to keep condition on him, so perhaps he’ll struggle to replicate that Leopardstown form at the Cheltenham Festival.
Also, Gordon Elliott would appear to have more high-quality bumper horses than Willie this season, so preference is for Sir Gerhard who has always been held in high regard and will arrive here a fresh horse with Cheveley Park Stud looking to complete a hat-trick of Champion Bumper wins. With Kilcruit’s emergence, he has drifted to a more appealing price. Hollow Games is taken to fill the places with a strongly run race looking sure to suit.