A race that on paper is setting up to be staggeringly similar to last year. At the top of the market, you have an nearly odds on Wille Mullins horse, Facile Vega, who was a dominant winner at the Dublin Racing Festival, the same as Kilcruit was last year. The second favourite is a Gordon Elliott trained horse that has been dominant in his two runs but hasn't been seen since before Christmas having won the Future Champions flat race, the exact route that Sir Gerhard took last year, even winning the same Down Royal bumper first time out. The second-placed horses from each of their debuts, won next time out. Facile Vega looked stunning when bolting up at the Dublin Racing Festival, the other 6 runners had all previously won, with the word coming from both the Nolan and Elliott camps being confidence behind their runners, Itswhatunitesus and Sandor Clegane, and they were both dispatched easily. It was hard not to be visually very impressed, but both Appreciate It and Kilcruit won the race in a similar style but were touched off in the Cheltenham Bumper. Now obviously they are different horses, and Facile Vega does have the best form in the book. American Mike has done nothing wrong himself and the second from his win in the Future Champions was a nose second in the grade two bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival, and he beat her 17 lengths without coming off the bridle. He's clearly very good and top jockey Jamie Codd is very bullish about him. Of the two, I actually prefer American Mike at a slightly better price, he's 3/1 whereas Facile Vega is a best-priced evens.
The next three in the market are all Mullins trained and have all won on their only starts. Redemption Day is 7/1 and won well over Christmas. It was arguably even more impressive than Facile Vega was on debut, Patrick didn't move a muscle the entire time. You can draw a line through him and Facile Vega through the third-placed horse, Tag Man. Beaten 7 and a half lengths by Redemption Day, he then ran a good 5 and a half lengths fourth in a strong bumper, the winner that day was Joyeaux Machin that was previously second to Facile Vega beaten 6 lengths. So on paper Facile Vega looks to have the stronger form having beaten a horse that beat Tag Man even further than Redemption Day did, but Redemption Day if extended could have beaten Tag Man by any distance he liked. It would have been good to see him at the Dublin Racing Festival but he would have to be high up on your shortlist for this race and for me is best of the rest.
After him in the market is Mercurey in the Ricci silks at 8/1, an impressive winner on his debut, it's fair to see he didn't beat much, but couldn't have won any easier. Because Ricci mentioned this horse by name before the debut, the market overreacted and as such saw his price collapse. At 8/1 I wouldn't back him with stolen money, Mullins mentioned after that winning start, that Cheltenham likely wouldn't be for this horse. He’s only a four-year-old and I expect Mullins will take his time with him. He traditionally doesn't run four-year-olds in this race, though the one horse he did was a very close second, so it should be a tip in itself if he were to run, I just can't see it. James's Gate is 12/1 and word before his debut was that he was a decent horse, he won easily going off just 2/5 in the betting. Again, it's hard to judge the form of those in behind, but he's far more likely to turn up than Mercurey. Mullins also had Pink In The Park as the once Ante Post favourite, but as often happens with Mrs Mullins' horses, after bolting up on debut, they are sold and get beaten next time out. She could only manage fifth in the mares' bumper at the DRF and would need to show much more to figure here.
Honestly, I have it between the first two in the market and can't see too much value in the betting, as I think each way plays will be hoping for third at best. Those at bigger prices that could outrun their odds could be: the Milton Harris pair, Mullenbeg and Rosy Redrum, 25/1 and 33/1, though they could be sent straight to the Aintree Mares' Bumper; Sir Argus at 50/1 for Mullins was very green on debut and though he looked well beaten, got the hang of it late and stormed home, the Cheltenham Hill could suit him, though I'm not certain he'll turn up here. Finally, I liked Champ Kiely at 100/1, a bumper winner on debut, the 3rd, 6th and 8th have all won since with the third being twice placed at graded level. Whilst the 8th was beaten just 6 lengths into second by Three Stripe Life. The second was also picked up by Munir and Souede so is clearly highly thought of. He hasn't been seen since last May and I'm sure they won't go hurdling now in order to maintain his novice status for next season. I wouldn't be confident on him running in this race but think he could be one to keep on side for hurdles next year regardless.
My only Ante Post bet for the race was a 20/1 outsider, that has since shown he's not good enough to challenge the main two at the top of the market.
Itswhatunitesus - Champion Bumper - 20/1 0.5pts each way (20/12/2021)
Now 40/1, he may still run in the race but would have a lot to find with Facile Vega on their running at the DRF. I will only advise one bet now and it's purely based on price, a 1pt win bet on American Mike at 3/1. I can't split the two market rivals, so I'll side with the bigger priced runner as my selection.