IRELAND have had a stranglehold on the Weatherbys Champion Bumper since the race was introduced in 1992 with 14 winners compared with Britain’s five. However, the home team have bounced back in recent years, winning the last two renewals with Cue Card and Cheltenian.
That said, the one man all will fear is Willie Mullins who simply has an extraordinary record in the race. Last year’s top Festival trainer has won it six times and has two entered this year, Champagne Fever, the mount of his son Patrick, and Pique Sous, ridden by Ruby Walsh. The former won well at Fairyhouse last time, but he looks soft ground dependant, while Walsh’s mount landed a Leopardstown Bumper in style last time and could be anything.
Pique Sous is not passed over lightly, but Ireland’s best hope looks to be Moscow Mannon, who is going for a four-timer. He has looked very good on his last three starts, but he has an inexperienced jockey in the saddle and is short enough at 7/1 with Coral.
John Ferguson has made a stunning start to life as a jumps trainer with the cast-offs from Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation and he can land the race with the four-year-old NEW YEAR’S EVE. The son of Derby winner Motivator sluiced up at Market Rasen last time and Barry Geraghty is a very interesting jockey booking.
A slight concern is that only three of the 19 winners of this race to date were four-year-olds, but this fellow could be a little bit special and is worth backing at around 6/1 on Betfair. The New One, Royal Guardsman and Jezki are all dangers, but they may not have enough speed to live with the Ferguson runner.
Have a look at Sporting Index’s match bets because I’d be happy to take on either of Mullins’ runners with New Year’s Eve. He could be quite a short price for next year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after this race if he wins as well as is expected.
Alan King has a powerful squad at his disposal this year and you have to take notice when he says that
VENDOR is his best chance of a winner at the Festival this year in the Fred Winter. Fortunately for us, we advised backing him a few weeks ago at 8/1 and he is now a 7/2 shot with both Coral and Paddy Power.
The French-bred won well at Newbury on his sole British start, despite a bad mistake at the last. King has always said he thought Vendor would be suited to better ground and he has reportedly been working the house down at Barbury Castle. Apparently he is in the same league as Grumeti and Balder Success and if that is true a mark of 129 would seriously underestimate his ability.
The main worry is his jumping because he has fallen or unseated three times in his seven-race career, but he has done plenty of schooling and there is certainly no reason to jump ship now.
David Pipe’s Kazilian is a danger, but I don’t think he’s beaten anything and I definitely want to take on Paul Nicholls’ Ulck Du Lin, who is yet to race in this country. He’s been backed purely because people think he’s another Sanctuaire and I will be laying him for a place on Betfair, as well as opposing him on the Sporting Index race index.
It might be worth having a few quid each-way on Venetia Williams’ KAPGA DE CERISY at 20/1 with Coral. The chestnut gelding improved markedly for the better ground at Sandown last time and I like the way he battled up the hill. Williams is always to be feared in the handicaps at this meeting and this one could easily sneak into the places.
Finding the winner of the 28-runner Coral Cup hasn’t been easy for punters in recent years and you have to go back to Xenophon in 2003 to find the last winning favourite. This year’s renewal looks as tricky as ever with Get Me Out Of Here currently heading the sponsor’s betting at 9/1.
Last year’s County Hurdle runner-up looks sure to put up a bold bid off top weight, but may struggle to defy a mark of 155 considering no winner of this contest has been rated higher than 147 in 18 runnings. It has traditionally paid to follow an Irish runner coming off the back of a break in this race and Noel Meade’s SILVERHAND looks just the type.
Our selection was last seen in action over hurdles when sixth to Moon Dice at Galway in July and seems to run best when fresh. It’s also encouraging to note that Silverhand was in the process of running a stormer behind Spirit River in this race back in 2010 when badly hampered. He was staying on at the time and would have finished much closer if he hadn’t been interfered with. He looks decent each-way value at 25/1, particularly with so many firms offering five places.
As for the rest, I’m also keen to take an each-way chance on the fast-improving John Ferguson-trained CAPE DUTCH at 18/1 with the sponsors. He was beaten by Edgardo Sol over an inadequate two miles at this track back in November and relished the half mile step up in trip when bolting up at Musselburgh last month.
Jack Quinlan takes off a crucial 5lbs meaning that Cape Dutch will feel like he is running loose with just 10 stone in the saddle. David Pipe’s pairing of Poole Master and Balgarry are hugely respected, but I’d rather take them on at the prices.