Castello Belies Bumper Concerns
Day two’s finale is the Champion Bumper, a race in which the Irish have certainly delivered down the years courtesy of 10 winners from the last 15 renewals – five of whom were trained by Willie Mullins.
Another Bumper Pay Day for Mullins?
With four of Mullins’ winners having returned at 12/1, 14/1, 16/1 and 25/1, it isn’t always the obvious first choice runner from the yard that succeeds. Currently heading Mullins’ runners in the market is Augusta Kate (8/1), who is 2-2 in bumpers following her 7l romp in a valuable event at Navan (2m, soft).
Augusta Kate’s chances are respected, but with only one female winner of the race since (from 53 runners), there could be better value via Mullins’ Castello Sforza (12/1).
This 5yo won a valuable bumper on his only career outing at Fairyhouse last April (2m, soft), when Mullins stated afterwards that he would be put away for Cheltenham.
While the 346-day absence may put some punters off, the fact Mullins has aimed him at this belies any concerns.
Mullins also has the more experienced 6yo, Avenir D’Une Vie (14/1), who is 2-4 in bumpers, and recorded a career best when sluicing up by 14l at Naas last month (2m, soft). While that came in the mud, Mullins believes his action could be more suited to better ground.
Britain Banks On Ballyandy
Also on 8/1 is Ballyandy, who is shaping up to be one of Britain’s best chances in the race. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ classy 5yo has already won a couple of Listed bumpers this season, including over C&D on decent ground. He improved upon that with a 9l win at Newbury last month and arrives with some of the best form in the book.
Ballyandy was defeated in between those victories, when going down by 1l to Coeur Blimey (12/1) in a Listed bumper at Ascot in December (soft). Had Sue Gardner’s 5yo come from a more distinguished yard, then his odds may be a lot shorter than 12/1, but he has been rested since that Ascot win and represents value.
You have to go back to 2007 for Jessica Harrington’s last win in this race, and her 5yo, New To This Town (12/1), has been popular in the ante-post markets (backed from 20/1) since winning an average bumper at Gowran Park in January (heavy). He’s yet to face decent ground.
It’s hard to ignore Willie Mullins in this event, and the fact he has kept Castello Sforza under wraps since Fairyhouse last April could be a tip in itself. At 14/1, he looks a decent each-way prospect.
*Prices correct at time of publication