News The Weatherbys Champion Bumper from a Bloodstock viewpoint

The Weatherbys Champion Bumper from a Bloodstock viewpoint

weatherbys, breeding

by Sally Duckett
After our short series celebrating some of the past 25 winners of the Weatherby-sponsored Grade 1 Champions Bumper, we look ahead to this year’s running of Cheltenham Festival’s NH Flat race which concludes the day’s action on Wednesday’s card.

This winter’s bumper landscape has been dominated by two talking horses – American Mike, who is trained by Gordon Elliot, and Facile Vega from the Willie Mullins camp. Both horses have looked mightily impressive in their prep races.
Mullins has trained the winner of the race 11 times, ten since it has been sponsored by Weatherbys, he has produced three of the last four winners, four of the first five in 2018, and he is easily the most successful trainer of the race. He has seven in the race this year, headed by Facile Vega who is the 5/6 favourite to give the Closutton trainer another success. 
By Walk In The Park, the sire of 11 bumper winners of 13 races this season, Facile Vega, who was bred by and is owned by the Hammer & Trowel Syndicate, is the second foal out of the star mare Quevega (Robin Des Champs), the record-breaking six-time winner of the Grade 2 2m4f Mares’ Hurdle and the four-time winner of the 3m Grade 1 World Series Hurdle at Punchestown.
Her first foal Princes Vega (Beat Hollow) won on her career debut over hurdles at Tramore, while Facile Vega is unbeaten in two bumper starts so far, both races coming at Leopardstown. First time out at Leopardstown’s Boxing Day meeting he beat Joyeux Machin by 6l, the son of Saddler Maker is due to challenge again, and his second victory came on Dublin Festival weekend when he won the Grade 2 Goffs Future Stars INH Flat race by an untroubled 12l.
After the second run, Mullins could not have been more effusive about the horse: “Today was the day to find out if he was as good as I hoped he could be. He looks to be even better than I thought he was, he looks to be the real deal.”
American Mike made his impressive 7l winning debut under Rules in October at Down Royal and, until the arrival of Facile Vega, was thought to be a sure thing at Prestbury Park.
The gelding’s opening performance was described in the Racing Post as a “performance of real quality and he is a fine prospect.”

The son of Mahler went on to prove that assessment correct when he backed up in the Listed Future Champions INH Flat race at Navan just before Christmas, winning by 17l!
The Racing Post was nearly out of superlatives for that effort, “As a visual it could not have been more impressive, but at least one bigger test awaits him this season.”
Elliott, who is looking for a third Champion Bumper winner, said: “He did what we expected. I think he's a proper horse. Jamie said it was a proper race and they went a proper gallop.”
American Mike was bought by Noel and Valerie Moran’s Bective Stud and Elliott for £195,000 at the Tattersalls Cheltenham April Sale in 2021. He had won a Cork four-year-old point-to-point for Sean Thomas Doyle having been bought by Monbeg Stables at the 2020 Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale, that year held in August, for €20,000.
His dam, the Lord Americo mare American Jennie, has black-type of her own – she was a Grade 3-winning chaser and finished third in the Irish Grand National.
Mullins’s second-string hope is James’s Gate, a once-raced February Punchestown winner by Shantou. Bred by Greg Rossiter and Denis Hickey, he was bought by Kevin Ross as a foal at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale 2017 from Garryrichard Stud for €62,000 for Sean and Bernardine Mulryan. The gelding is a half-brother to the winning Whitmore’s Conn gelding Black Lightning, and his winning dam Annie May (Anshan) is a half-sister to the 146-rated Creevytennant and to Fagan, runner-up in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (G1) in 2016.
Four of the 22-strong field have a GB suffix, including third-favourite Redemption Day, bred by Yorton Farm’s Dave Futter and Thoroughbid’s Will Kinsey. The five-year-old bay gelding is by the exciting stallion Blue Bresil, sire of Constitution Hill and who stood at Yorton between the years 2016 and 2019. He is now based in Ireland at Rathbarry and Glenview Studs.
Redempton Day certainly has the family credentials for success – he is out of Cutielilou, an Astrabad full-sister to the 2011 winner Cheltenian.
The gelding won his bumper at Leopardstown over Christmas (Music Drive second), the same race was won previously by Silver Concorde in 2013 ahead of his 2014 Champion Bumper success for trainer Dermot Weld.
Redemption Day was bought by Donnachadh Doyle as a two-year-old in 2019 for £40,000 at the first instalment of the Goffs UK Yorton Farm Sale; it will be an early feather in the sale’s cap if Redempton Day can scale Grade 1 heights so early in his career.
Blue Bresil also has the GB-bred Madmansgame, bred by Yorton Farm Stud and Mrs Maggie Luck, mother of RacingTV’s Nick Luck, also host of the Nick Luck Daily Podcast which features the weekly bloodstock section sponsored by Weatherbys.
The five-year-old’s unraced dam Grainne Ni Maille (Terimon) was bought by Luck at the DBS January Sale in 2014 for just £18,000 from Mickley Stud. The mare has subsequently produced three winners, including Gentlemansgame, who was runner-up twice in Grade 1 novice hurdles last season – at Leopardstown on Dublin Racing weekend and at April’s Punchestown meeting.
“I went to Doncaster to sell a homebred foal for Mum,” recalls Luck. “I kept looking at this mare in the catalogue by Terimon, in-foal to Malinas – we had a foal on the ground bred on the same cross who was an absolute beauty, though sadly couldn’t run very fast! 
“I bumped into Arthur Moore, who had trained Well Ridden from the mare’s family and he told me he’d have been one of the best he’d trained had he not met with a fatal injury, that gave me a bit more encouragement to have a go. 
“Grainne Ni Maille has a lovely old school pedigree and I thought I might pick her up cheaply, but I ended up giving £18,000 for her, which seemed plenty at the time, but all the Shropshire lads wanted her. 
“I broke the news ‘gently’ to my mother, but Dave Futter of Yorton was keen to come in halves, and the rest is history. She has three winners from three runners, and all pretty useful.” 
Madsmansgame was sold at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale 2020 by Liss House for €80,000, another point-to-point prospect bought by Monbeg Stables. He duly won on his four-year-old debut at Boulta on December 12, 2021 under Rob James. Four days later the gelding was bought by Mullins for 250,000gns at the Tattersalls Online December Sale – it would be another “first-ever” for a new sale were the five-year-old to be successful at Prestbury Park.
After the online transaction, Madmansgame made a winning reappearance on February 22 in a Navan bumper under Patrick Mullins.
Our Jester would be a poignant victory for owner Pangfield Racing V – Tim Billington, a member of the syndicate and breeder of this Garswood gelding, his dam Cill Rialaig (Environment Friend) and grand-dam Pang Valley Girl (Rock Hopper), passed away in 2020.
Cheltenham bumpers have been very kind to this equine family. Cill Rialaig achieved Listed black-type on the Flat but she started out in bumpers and, on her second start in 2009 and last before transferring to the Flat game, won the Listed Junior bumper held at the Cheltenham January meeting.
Trainer Hughie Morrison took a similar route with her second live foal Urban Artist (Cityscape) – he won a Listed bumper at the Cheltenham November meeting before plying his trade on the level and now also has Flat black-type to his name and a BHA rating of 101.
Our Jester has run in four bumpers, finished second the first twice before collecting in November at Ascot and then at Lingfield in January.
The two four-year-olds in the field are both fillies and have 17lb in hand against the older geldings. The three-time winner Poetic Music won the Listed January Junior bumper over course and distance after success in a bumper at Newbury. She is by the late Poet’s Voice and is trained by Fergal O’Brien.
Rosy Redrum, trained by Milton Harris, is a daughter of Pride Of Dubai and, after winning on her debut, finished second to Emma Lavelle’s Leading Light gelding Top Dog in a Listed event at Newbury. The pair take each other on again.
The 25th running of the Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper has the hallmarks of a quality renewal, and it promises to be a fitting way to celebrate the company’s long-term support, the longest continual sponsorship of one race at The Festival, as well as the organisation’s commitment to thoroughbred development.
In 1770, James Weatherby was appointed Secretary to the Jockey Club and Keeper of the Match Book, 20 years later he published the first-ever volume of the General Stud Book.
Which young NH horse will be the one to gallop up the Cheltenham hill in front and add a new Grade 1 NH Flat race black-type success to his or her stud book pedigree?  All will be revealed at 5.30pm on Wednesday, March 16.