Mention the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival and eyes will immediately turn to the entries for the race held by Irish training maestro, Willie Mullins. Having trained six winners of the race in the last twelve years the race has almost become his to lose and this year will be no exception as he has an incredible thirteen entries in the race including the favourite Sicilian Secret.
The Champion Bumper is the only flat race amongst the 26 races hosted at the Cheltenham Festival. It is run over a distance of a fraction over two miles and is restricted to horses aged between 4-6 years old. It is also unique in that it can attract flat jockeys to ride, former joint champion flat jockey, Jamie Spencer actually won the race in 2002 on Pizarro.
It is not exactly a great race for favourites with only three winners in the last fifteen years, the last one being Missed That in 2005, who was trained by Mullins. In fact Irish trained horses have won an incredible thirteen of the sixteen runnings and punters are advised not to look outside of the Irish contingent in the race. Another interesting statistic is that the race has been dominated by five year old horses who have triumphed in ten of the last twelve races.
Recent training reports have highlighted that eight of the Mullins string worked out together last week but it was Sicilian Secret who looked the pick of the bunch, a fact not lost on the Bookmakers who clipped his odds for the race to 9-2 generally from 5-1. Sicilian Secret has only had the one run this season, coming home ahead of what was deemed to be a quality field at Leopardstown last month. He also has however several others in the race with great chances, including third favourite Quinola Des Obeaux twice a winner this season already.
Another interesting entry from the Mullins yard is Cadspeed who has won his only two starts by distances and he could be more than a lively each way chance at 16-1.
English hopes probably lie with the Paul Nicholls trained Red Harbour. He too has won his only two flat starts including a Grade Two at Ascot in December. Red Harbour has been kept purposely fresh for the race. Gary Moore who has several surprising winners this season runs Vino Griego, also a winner of his latest start at Ascot and one who they think of highly at the Moore Yard.