2021 Cheltenham Festival – Believe The Hype About Kilcruit In The Champion Bumper
2021 Champion Bumper Tips
Packed full of potential superstars, the Champion Bumper, which takes place on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival, is the only race at the meeting in which the runners do not have to jump. Lewis Tomlinson has cast a keen eye over the likely contenders.
Champion Bumper Overview
The Champion Bumper has traditionally been a playground for Willie Mullins; the great man has won the race ten times as a trainer, including when getting in the saddle to ride Wither Or Which to victory in 1996, and he looks poised to launch a substantial assault on the race once again.
Champion Bumper Contenders – Kilcruit
You’d be hard pressed to say that any of Mullins’ previous winners had produced anything going into Cheltenham like the calibre of performance Kilcruit (6-4) showed in winning the Grade 2 at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier this month. It was an annihilation, a rare moment in the sport where words will never quite do the visuals justice.
Patrick Mullins didn’t look like he was trying. Kilcruit didn’t look like he was trying. It was Michael Phelps turning up at the Year 5 swimming gala, Michael Jordan trying to slam dunk his way past Danny DeVito – yes, that is the plot of Space Jam – an athlete only having to display a bare minimum level of effort to get the job done.
Kilcruit won the race by 12 lengths, without ever having to come off the bridle, and for me, the distance genuinely undersells just how breathtaking he was. It would’ve been ridiculous to watch if it was a backwater maiden round Sligo, never mind the strongest bumper field assembled all season.
Now, when a horse does something as visually spectacular, as Kilcruit did at Leopardstown, the sensible option is generally always to look for reasons as to why the form shouldn’t be taken at face value. The most prominent sticking point around the validity of Kilcruit’s manner of victory is the sectional times, which prove those out in front went far too quick and gave themselves no chance of running through the line.
Apart from that, though, I think the race stacks up. The fourth horse, Chemical Energy, had impressed when easily defeating the fairly useful On Eagles Wings on his previous start, whilst the fifth, Ramillies, was available at short as 12-1 for the Champion Bumper after he won over the Christmas period.
So, was Kilcruit’s victory too good to be true? That’s the question this race revolves around and if you believe it, he’s surely going to be nigh-on impossible to beat at Cheltenham. If you don’t, he makes the market.
It’s somewhat surprising that Cheveley Park Stud’s expansion into the National Hunt game is still only in it’s third season, such is the success the operation has had already in this sphere. And their preparation for the Cheltenham Festival has been disrupted by moving their horses from Gordon Elliott after he became mired in controversy for sitting on a dead horse. It wouldn’t be as surprising, though, if they were to collect their third consecutive Champion Bumper- their Sir Gerhard was favourite throughout the winter for this year’s renewal, and it’s easy to see why the noe Willie Mullins-trained horse has already garnered such a reputation for himself.
Envoi Allen and Ferny Hollow have carried the red, white and blue to victory in this race in the last two seasons, and Sir Gerhard certainly has the potential to follow in their hoofprints.
A product of the Ellmarie Holden talent factory, cost Cheveley Park £400,000 after his point victory and wasted no time in showing his ability under rules, breezing clear of the reasonably useful The Banger Doyle on his first start for Elliott before downing Gavin Cromwell’s dual winner Letsbeclearaboutit (18-1), who also chased home Kilcruit at Leopardstown last time, with similar ease in Navan Listed event in December. Sir Gerhard hasn’t looked as strong a traveller as Kilcruit, but powered clear from a talented horse when asked to by Jamie Codd and deserves his place as the chief threat to the favourite.
Gordon Elliott Squad
Elliott’s squad could be bolstered by the imposing Hollow Games (16-1), who was bought form ore than £250,000 by the Morans after his point victory and has been very tidy in two victories under rules so far.
Three Stripe Life (16-1), an impressive winner of his sole start at Navan in late January, is another promising sort Elliott could call upon here.
Gerri Colombe (14-1) was another facile debut winner out of Cullentra House this season. The Robcour-owned point winner cost £240,000 at last season’s Cheltenham sales and won by half the track on his first rules start at Fairyhouse, though that race was on bad ground andI have Gerri Colombe down as a little bit more of a longer-term staying prospect.
Now, it is worth noting that, with regards to Kilcruit, Willie Mullins has often seen his unfancied charges outperform those higher up the market in the Champion Bumper, but I find it to see that happening again this year.
Other Mullins runners
Ramillies (20-1) shaped like the third-best horse in the race behind Kilcruit at Leopardstown, but there’s no obvious reason why he should turn the tables, and the mares Grangee (20-1) and Brandy Love (33-1) were first and third respectively in the Listed mares’ bumper at the same meeting. Through Grangee’s formline with Eileendover, a replication of that looks a level below what would be required to win this.
Any domestic challenge looks to revolve around the participation of the aforementioned Eileendover (10-1). Pam Sly’s mare is bred in the blue, a granddaughter of the yard’s 1000 Guineas heroine Speciosa. Her Market Rasen demolition job was the bumper performance on this side of the Irish Sea we’ve seen this season, but Sly doesn’t seem too fussed tor the bright lights of Cheltenham, and we’ll see her at Aintree in April. No Ordinary Joe for Nicky Henderson, and the Paul Nicholls pair Knappers Hill and Petrossian are available to back at 25-1 for the British team
Champion Bumper Big-Race Verdict
By nature, I’m sceptical when it comes to buying into the hype surrounding horses of the nature of Kilcruit,. This time though, I’m on the bandwagon. He wasn’t ridden solely to pick up the pieces, and whilst he undoubtedly benefitted from the pace collapse at the head of affair, other horses who raced around him in mid-division couldn’t lay a glove on him when Patrick made his move, so I’m happy enough to take some positives from the sectionals as well. The visuals said this horse should win the Champion Bumper, I think the formbook suggests this horse should win the Champion Bumper. I believe the hype.