Cheltenham Tips: Ruby Walsh’s 14/1 ante-post fancy for the Champion Bumper

Willie Mullins has farmed the Champion Bumper on the Wednesday at Cheltenham and Ruby's got a value pick to keep onside.

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*Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing / Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional Antepost rules

Cheltenham Festival 2023 is eight weeks away and racing fans will be looking for a little bit of insight into every race, so we’ve got jump jockey icon turned tactical guru Ruby Walsh and top pundit Rory Delargy with us every week to hopefully get you more bang for your buck.

The Champion Bumper seems a wide open affair on Wednesday, March 15th but who do you fancy?

Our dynamic duo will be doing weekly ante-post podcasts to deliver their early thoughts on every race – amazing, eh?

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First thing to mention would be Willie Mullins’ fantastic record in the Champion Bumper, he’s trained 12 winners of it. His son, Patrick, has ridden three winners, Cousin Vinny in 2008, Champagne Fever in 2012 and, of course, last year’s winner Facile Vega. We don’t know yet who he will opt for.

Here’s some of the main contenders:

RUBY WALSH: Champion Bumper Preview

IT’S FOR ME was mightily impressive when winning at Navan and he was working that way at home, but I’m not sure how just strong a race it was. He was really, really impressive though and Navan is always a good test for any young horse. He won as authoritatively as you would have hoped and it’s a good stepping stone. It’s unlikely he will reappear at the Dublin Racing Festival – I’m not sure Willie would be keen to run him any later than that two-day Leopardstown meeting as it’s barely a month to Cheltenham then. Maybe he will, but I would have thought he’d be heading to Cheltenham on the back of one win which can be done.

Alexander Banquet went there after winning in Gowran Park years ago, Cue Card did it too back in the day so I wouldn’t see just one run a negative, but it is a hard race to get a handle on – and I’m working in Willie’s, looking at them and watching them and it’s hard to tell.

With the Novice hurdlers you have either previous Flat form, Bumper form or even French form to go on and form an opinion of some sort. In bumpers, you might get to see them run only once before Cheltenham and they’re way harder to weigh up or gauge.

CHAPEAU DE SOLEIL looked a bit awkward at Fairyhouse recently and you’d obviously prefer if he had won. Better Days Ahead beat him by three and a quarter lengths.

Ferny Hollow looked quite similar in the same race a couple of years back and ended up winning at Cheltenham. I’m not comparing him to Ferny Hollow –  and if I was still riding and had the choice of mounts for the Bumper, I’m not sure I’d pick him at this stage.

You never get to see them at their 100 per cent fitness level and effort at home – especially not younger horses.

Willie Mullins doesn’t say: “Next Tuesday morning we’re going to have a race with all the bumper horses at the bottom of the gallop and we’re going to find out who is best’. You can’t and you don’t.

Willie has all-weather surfaces so you aren’t going to get a true reflection of what they’re going to run on grass anyway. Was It’s For Me doing more than enough to suggest that he would win a bumper? You never know, you can’t find out at home, you have to keep the dream alive and hope that they’ll surprise you at the track.

I suppose it’s like when you’re comparing two-year-olds going to Royal Ascot. That’s what you’re talking about with bumper horses. You just don’t know about them and I’d say if one really took your eye, you’re thinking ‘wow, maybe there’s a bit more under the lid there on the track.’

Back to CHAPEAU DE SOLEIL, obviously we didn’t think he would do that when he went to the track so you’re hoping he’ll have learnt a lot from it and he’ll make the natural progression that you would like to see with every horse. He won’t be ridden any differently, he won’t be asked to do anything different, you just hope the penny drops with him  and he learns that’s not the way to race.

The way we’re trying to ride him every morning is the way we want him to race. It’s like setting up a team in football – some players get the system quicker than others do. Same with technique, some need more practice, some just get it. Horses are no different.

WESTPORT COVE was A nice winner at Fairyhouse recently, but still did a few things wrongly. He was quite keen early on at Fairyhouse, actually he was very green-looking early on, but did quicken up really well and won impressively in the end.

FACT TO FILE won a two and a half mile bumper at Leopardstown in December, he stayed well but I don’t think I’d be backing him for the Champion Bumper just yet. He beat Irish Panther then and should run at the Dublin Racing Festival in early February, so that’ll tell a lot more about his future targets.

DID I ASK YOU THAT was far too keen in the bumper on Stephen’s Day – he did things wrong but I’d imagine if he settled better and went and won on his next start, he would go to Cheltenham.

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RUBY WALSH: Champion Bumper Verdict

For value I’ll go with CHOSEN WITNESS. He’s double figure odds in the ante-post lists and I thought he won well at Limerick when Jody Townend rode him. He’s by Well Chosen, should stay and I thought he showed a lot of gears on really testing ground at the Munster track.

He always looked like he was going to win in Limerick and he’ll be better on drier ground in my opinion. He’s trained by Willie Mullins, he’s won a bumper, he’s qualified to run at Cheltenham and  there’s a fair chance he’ll go! Can’t ask for than that at this stage.

Ruby’s Champion Bumper Antepost Tips

CHOSEN WITNESS – Champion Bumper – 17:30, March 14th

*Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing / Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional Antepost rules

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