Champion Bumper Betting

Inaugurated in March of 1992, the Champion Bumper has been a commercially supported race since its inception. It began as the “Festival Bumper” under sponsorship of the Tote and was then was picked up by Guinness in 1993. From 1994 to 1996 the event had a series of three sponsors, starting with Bromsgrove Industries and followed by Prestige Medical and the Bi Group.

Happily, a more permanent relationship was formed with Weatherbys in 1997. The company is the provider of central administration to British Horseracing and has been a stalwart supporter of the sport since 1770, when Mr. James Weatherby was appointed to serve as the Secretary of the Jockey Club. From 1997 to the present day, the Festival Bumper has been formally known as the Weatherbys Champion Bumper Open National Hunt Flat Race, or simply the “Champion Bumper” for brevity’s sake.

This event takes place as the finale of Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival each March. It is the run on the left-handed turf of the New Course, covering a distance of two miles and half a furlong. As a Class A Grade 1 National Hunt flat race, or so-called “bumper,” it is open to horses between the ages of four and six years, with a weight of 10 stone 12 pounds allocated to the youngest mounts and 11 stone 5 to the five- and six-year-olds. Fillies and mares receive an allowance of 7 pounds.

As the only flat race run at the Festival, the Champion Bumper is widely acclaimed as the most prestigious flat race in the National Hunt calendar. Many of its first-place finishers have gone on to become leading performers over obstacles, such as 1997’s Irish-bred champion Florida Pearl, subsequent winner of the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, the King George VI Chase, and a record four Irish Hennessy Gold Cups.

The dominant trainer at the Champion Bumper has been Willie Mullins, with a record six victories. They include Wither or Which (1996), Florida Pearl (1997), Alexander Banquet (1998), Joe Cullen (2000), Missed That (2005), and Cousin Vinny (2008). So effective is the “Mullins Blockade” that no other trainer has been able to manage more than a single win here.

Among professional jockeys, three have scored double triumphs. Richard Dunwoody did it first on Montelado (1992) and Florida Pearl (1997). Charlie Swan became the second aboard Mucklemeg (1994) and Joe Cullen (2000). Then, Paul Carberry achieved the feat, riding Rhythm Section (1993) and Hairy Molly (2006). Ruby Walsh also won in 1998 and 2005, although the first victory was accomplished as an amateur.

In 2011, the total prize fund for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper is £60,000, just as it was in 2010, when Cue Card running at 40/1 blew the field away, putting sixteen lengths between himself and Frawley back in third. The victory earned £34,206, making heroes of jockey Joe Tizzard and trainer Colin Tizzard, not just for the long-odds finish but also for delivering the first non-Irish trained victor since Liberman in 2003 and the first four-year-old to win since Dato Star in 1995.

There are several trends to be aware of when wagering on the Champion Bumper, other than Ireland’s overwhelming command of the event, with 14 wins in 18 runnings. Fully 16 of the 18 races have been won by horse that also did so their last time out. Fifteen of the 18 had won a Bumper comprised of 14 or more runners, too. And of the most recent 14 outings, ten were claimed by a five-year-old.

Only three favourites have ever won the Champion Bumper—Mucklemeg in 1994 and Missed That in 2005, both at 7/2 odds, and Liberman in 2003 at 2/1. However, 14 of the 18 race winners were ranked among the top six in pre-race betting, and other than Cue Card, only two winners were touted at odds higher than 16/1—Monsignor at 50/1 in 1999 and Hairy Molly at 33/1 in 2006.

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