David Pipe's Moon Racer can win the only Festival race without obstacles
Weatherbys Champion Bumper, 2m110y Old Course (due off 5.15pm)
The annual certainty with this event is that Ireland, and Willie Mullins in particular, will hold the strongest hand, and this year’s renewal is no exception. The annual conundrum being which of Mullins’ runners to back. He’s won it eight times overall (four times in the last ten years) and on four of those occasions he saddled just one runner. In the other four, he’s been mob-handed and the winner traded at a bigger price than at least one stablemate. This time round he could have as many as eight runners and they are headed (at least according to the betting) by Bordini, who made it 2-2 in this sphere when impressively landing a Listed bumper at Navan last time out. The five-year-old has done nothing wrong and is the likely ride of Ruby Walsh, but it’s doubtful even his trainer knows where he stands in the pecking order – so what chance us punters?! Top price: 8/1 Betfred.
Who else is fancied?
Try the Mullins second, third, fourth and fifth-string, with Pylonthepressure, whose work at home has been described as “very good”, currently ahead of Au Quart De Tour, Stone Hard and Bellshill in the betting. Interestingly, the last-named finished ahead of Bordini when winning a point-to-point for Colin McKeever, who also supplied Mullins with the 2013 winner Briar Hill and last year’s Shaneshill. Other Irish raiders with solid claims are Supasundae and last year’s fifth Vigil, representing Henry de Bromhead and Dermot Weld respectively.
Of the British trainers, David Pipe is flying the flag with Moon Racer, an expensive purchase (£225,000) at the sales having won a valuable Fairyhouse bumper by seven and a half lengths. His festival target was decided at the Cheltenham in October when posting a 12-length success from a subsequent winner, and connections have kept him under wraps since. There’s no knowing how good he is but his stable will have a very good idea, and it’s worth remembering that Pipe’s father is one of the few non-Irish trainers to have won this race, with Liberman in 2003.
Any decent outsiders?
Wait For Me surprised his trainer Philip Hobbs with the manner of his debut success at Ascot last time and, while he’s had just 25 days to get over it, he apparently didn’t lose much weight after the race. The only other newcomer to win that contest was a certain Sprinter Sacre in 2010 and the form looks decent, although he’s a three-mile chaser in the making and may need very soft ground to live with some of these over 2m.
On the other hand, the Gordon Elliott-trained General Principle won’t be inconvenienced by quicker conditions and he looked the real deal when landing a Punchestown bumper by 22-lengths. Up For Review, another Mullins inmate, was my fancy for this until getting beat in a two-horse race last time, but that was a tactical affair and he was running into a gale for the most part. I could go on and it’s quite possible I’ve got this far without mentioning the winner!
Trainer quote: “We have to take on the Irish but we’re happy with our fellow and on what he showed last time he must have a chance. We think he’s pretty smart. He blew them away in October and there’s no reason why we can’t bring him back in that sort of form.” – David Pipe on Moon Racer.
Best bookie offer
Most bookmakers will be keeping their day two offers under wraps until the day before, understandably, and it’s almost a given that at least one firm will offer each-way backers four places, as opposed to the standard three – watch this space!
It may be folly taking on the Irish but the vibes have been very strong for Moon Racer and Pipe is one of the best target trainers in the land. He’ll do for me.
Selection – Moon Racer at 8/1 bet365 NRNB
All odds were correct at time of posting.