Champion Bumper Tips: Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard set for epic clash

Champion Bumper Tips: Kilcruit is fancied to strike at Cheltenham Festival
Champion Bumper Tips: Kilcruit is fancied to strike at Cheltenham Festival

Paul Ferguson previews the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, which takes place on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, and he provides his Champion Bumper tips in what is set to be an epic clash between Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard...

Hugely impressive when winning the Grade 2 Future Stars bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival last month, Kilcruit heads the market to provide Willie Mullins with a remarkable 11th win in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Much has been made about the performance, which was – visually – something rarely seen in this division, in that the strong pace set things up for the imposing son of Stowaway, who has now won both starts for Mullins, having finished runner-up for his brother Anthony on his sole start last term. Yes they went hard, but he was the only horse who could travel up as smoothly as he did (nothing else was able to land a blow from in behind), and admittedly it almost certainly enhanced the winning distance in the closing stages, but it is also worth remembering that he was almost as impressive off a relatively sedate pace the time before. 

Again, he was on the bridle when cruising to the lead at Navan, and it would appear as though he has improved significantly since he made that racecourse debut almost a year ago. Ground better than soft is an unknown, but it isn’t something that I am overly concerned about with Kilcruit, and he sets the standard.

Runner-up at Leopardstown, Letsbeclearaboutit had earlier finished much closer to Sir Gerhard in a Listed contest at Navan, although he set a much steadier pace on that occasion, yet was brushed aside by the Cheveley Park-owned son of Jeremy. A wide-margin winner of a maiden Point (beat the 143-rated Minella Drama), he was 14-lengths too good for The Banger Doyle on his debut under Rules, and the runner-up won on his next start, but was beaten 97 lengths by Kilcruit last month. Given the way that the Grade 2 event unfolded, it would be folly to take a literal reading of the form, but it would also be foolish to ignore the fact that Anglers Crag and Ever Present (third and fourth at Navan) were also beaten out of sight by Kilcruit.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Having won his Point on yielding-to-soft, the six-year-old has less of a question hanging over in terms of ground conditions, and he will be bidding to provide his owners with a third successive win in this event. He, of course, will also now be representing the Willie Mullins stable – having moved from Gordon Elliott’s only this week – and we won’t know the impact that the yard switch will have on these horses until they run. It is possible that it won’t be detrimental to his chance, but it is certainly something that should be factored in, as a change of routine so close to a big target is unlikely to be a positive.

His former stable-mate Three Stripe Life created a really good impression when winning by nine lengths at Navan in late-January, beating Outlaw Peter, who has subsequently moved to Paul Nicholls. The ground was desperate on that occasion and he finished stronger than any other horse on the card, which suggests that he might need the forecast to be incorrect and conditions to deteriorate somewhat. He obviously lacks experience, too, so it would appear to be a big ask against two potentially high-class performers.

Given the strength of the top two, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a smaller field in this year’s Champion Bumper. The fact that the market is so lopsided – it is 25-1 bar the three, at the time of writing – suggests that it could be a match, and with them now quite close in the betting, I marginally favour Kilcruit, who has likely had the better preparation. 

16:50 Wed - Champion Bumper
Kilcruit silk


Cheltenham Festival Races
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