Who are the Top Three ‘Bumper’ Horses of 2021/22?

The Weatherbys Champion Bumper, run on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival in March, is the only Grade 1 race of its kind – that is, a National Hunt Flat race – run on British soil. Inaugurated in 1992, the race has thrown up numerous future superstars over hurdles and fences, including Florida Pearl and Cue Card, to name but two.

The 2022 renewal of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper proved to be no exception, with the top three ‘bumper’ horses, according to Timeform, filling the first three places. The trio was headed by Facile Vega (127+), an unbeaten 5-year-old trained by Willie Mullins, who confirmed his position at the head of the pecking order by digging deep to beat stablemate Redemption Day in the Punchestown Champion Bumper the following month. Mullins, who has won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper twelve times, said, ‘I’ve compared him to Florida Pearl, who was a very good bumper horse, and that’s how highly we regard him. He’d be in the top percentage of our winners of this race.’

Second at Cheltenham, and subsequently third at Punchestown, was American Mike (122), another 5-year-old trained by Gordon Elliott. Although no match for the principals on either occasion, the son of St. Leger runner-up Mahler was described by the Co. Meath handler as a ‘proper horse’ when impressively winning his preparatory race for the Cheltenham Festival at Navan in December.

James’s Gate (118), a stable companion of Facile Vega, headed to the Cheltenham Festival on the back of impressive, 8-length win on his debut at Punchestown in mid-February. He was sent fifth choice of seven Willie Mullins-trained entries at 16/1, but fared better than all bar Facile Vega, finishing third, beaten 6¼ lengths. He was beaten, at odds-on, on his third and final start of the campaign, back at Punchestown in April, but remains a smart prospect.