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Champagne Fever Heads Champion Bumper Betting After Fairyhouse Success 23/01/12

The Willie Mullins trained Champagne Fever has been made favourite for the Champion Bumper following his impressive 13 length victory at Fairyhouse on Sunday and looks like his trainer's main hope of landing this race for a seventh time in the 20 years it has been run.

Champagne Fever
© Caroline Norris

Champagne Fever

The Champion Bumper however is one of the most difficult antepost races to untangle at the Cheltenham Festival and is a race with little form to go off and a lot of dependency on the word of "good things" and a strong trends.

The race is run over a slightly extended two mile flat course and is open only to horses aged between 4 and 6 years old. It always attracts exciting field and provides the racing fans with a valuable insight in to potential future stars of the National Hunt. Due to the nature of the race, it often provides an opportunity for the flat jockeys to get involved in what is widely acknowledged as the greatest meeting in the sport and there are many who have been successful in the race down the years, the last being Jamie Spencer who rode Pizarro to victory in 2002.

However, it is usually the Jumps jockeys that prevail although no individual jockey can be said to have ever been a dominant factor in the race with only three jockeys ever riding the two winners. Only one of those, Paul Carberry is still riding today.

Since its inaugural running in 1992, eleven Bumper champions have returned to the Festival the following season and three of them have won. The 1992 winner, Montelado won the Supreme Novices Hurdle, Florida Pearly, who won the Bumper in 1997 went on to win the RSA Chase while Monsignor won the race in 1999 before going on to land the race that is now known as the Neptunes Investment Novices Hurdle, breaking the course record by four seconds in the process. Sadly, that was to be his last ever race after an injury at home put an end to his career.

The race has also produced many big names from those who ran in the Bumper without actually winning it, the most recent example of this is the Jonjo O’Neill trained Albertas Run who has won the Ryanair Chase two years running and will be potentially lining up a hat trick in the race this season.

Other recent runners who will be at the Festival this season include the Colin Tizzard trained Cue Card, winner in 2010 and who was fourth in the Supreme Novices last season. This season is his first as a novice chaser and will see him run in the Arkle Challenge Trophy. There is also Dunguib, who won the Bumper in 2009 who is a likely to be a Champion Hurdle contender this term.

It is worth noting that Irish trained runner shave won 14 of the 18 renewals and Irish champion Trainer, Willie Mullins has saddled six of them.

Little wonder therefore that it is Champagne Fever who is the current 12/1 antepost favourite for this year’s renewal. The five year old made his racecourse debut on Boxing Day at Leopardstown over two miles, where he finished second 4½ lengths behind the winner Thomas Edison despite being 4/5 favourite. However, his easy win at Fairyhouse on Sunday by 13 lengths was enough to illustrate why Champayne Fever is highly rated and was enough to see his odds for the Bumper halved with most firms and is as short as 8/1.

Un Atout
© Caroline Norris

Un Atout

Others who have made good impressions early on in their careers include Population, trained by John Ferguson who is two from two in Bumpers but has not run since November and this 16/1 shot would probably require a run again before March. Shutthefrontdoor, from the Jonjo O’Neill yard who is also two from two as is the The New One from the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable. Un Atout, also trained by Mullins was a very impressive 24 length winner of his debut Bumper at Naas earlier this month, while Venture Capital from the Phillip Fenton stable was won on his debut at Fairyhouse last month and is said to be as good as Dunguib who won for Fenton in 2009.

All four of these are also currently 16/1 and have to rate as serious contenders but with seven weeks until the Festival, there is still time for more contenders to emerge and this year's Bumper looks set to be as competitive as previous years.

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