Horse racing at the Cheltenham Festival is iconic for its big fences and battered hurdles as horses charge around the Old and New Courses in search of glory. Jumps at the Cheltenham Festival help create part of the legend of this amazing four days of racing, where some of the sport’s greatest champions have overcome everything in their path to earn iconic race wins.
But there is one race here that doesn’t feature fences or hurdles. In fact, there are no obstacles whatsoever in the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper.
Why this is and what it means for horse racing betting odds is what we’ll explore in Paddy Power’s latest Demystifying Racing guide! But before we look at the Champion Bumper, it’s worth understanding what a bumper race actually is…
What is a bumper horse race?
A bumper is a type of horse race found during the National Hunt season that does not feature jumps. Unlike steeplechases and hurdle races, bumpers are flat runs that don’t require the horses to vault any obstacles.
Generally races without jumps are reserved for the Flat season during the summer, when the ground is too firm for horses to land comfortably. These races are therefore a rarity during the National Hunt season, which uses jumps to increase the drama and test both horse and jockey to the limit on softer ground.
So why do bumpers exist in the National Hunt? Well, it’s all to do with how to ingratiate young horses into the racing environment. Some trainers decide to field horses in National Hunt bumpers in order to prepare them for the upcoming Flat season. This added experience of running in front of crowds – and without the added distraction of jumps – is great for young horses.
What is the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper?
The Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper is the ultimate bumper race in the UK and Irish calendar and attracts some of the most promising horses that will one day glide over fences and hurdles.
The race is open to horses aged four to six, and there is a 7lb allowance for fillies and mares. Ruby Walsh (3) boasts the most wins in the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper, claiming victory in 1998, 2005 and 2013. While you might think the majority of jockeys in the Champion Bumper come from the Flat season, in fact most are National Hunt jockeys who take up the ride for one race.
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Iconic recent winners of the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper include Pizarro (2002), Cue Card (2010) and Champagne Fever (2012).
How a bumper horse race affects betting
If you’re looking at the racing betting odds and are worried fences and hurdles at Cheltenham could impact on the outcome, then the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper is perfect for you.
That’s because, without jumps, there is far more certainty about how a horse will perform. Champion Bumper betting guides will likely all point to the same favourite each year, although it’s not a guarantee the favourite will claim victory. It’s worth noting that usually the victor is a five- or six-year-old and from the UK or Ireland. Finally, be sure to check out the official ratings of each horse before placing your bet on the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper.
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