Cheltenham Ante-Post Tips 2024: Joystick can take control of cloudy Champion Bumper market

 | January 14 | 

4 mins read

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Who wins the Champion Bumper? That's the question on many lips as the picture for the Cheltenham Festival's sole flat race gets blurrier and blurrier.

It's bound to get a whole lot clearer after the Dublin Racing Festival next month, however, and I've decided it's time to write one into the antepost book in advance of the landmark two-day meeting.

Cheltenham Ante-Post Tips 2024

  • Joystick @ 14/1 for the Champion Bumper

It was the much-anticipated debut of Gordon Elliott's £420,000 recruit Romeo Coolio, who's garnered quite the reputation, at Fairyhouse that convinced me to target the Champion Bumper on Week 12/20 of this 2024 Cheltenham Festival antepost series.

I thought it was a fine start from the five-year-old son of Kayf Tara, but he was hardly impressive in an ordinary race and I'd have looked a lot more favourably on his chances in March if there was time for him to get more experience in the locker.

Instead, he and stablemate Jalon D'Oudairies, who sets a decent but certainly not unreachable standard, head straight to Prestbury Park and look vulnerable enough at the market's summit.

When considering who could put it up to those two, the obvious thought was 'whoever wins the bumper at the DRF'.

The Grade 2 contest is, unsurprisingly, an excellent marker for the Champion Bumper. It produced the winner in 2019 (Envoi Allen), 2022 (Facile Vega) and 2023 (A Dream To Share) - plus the runner-up in 2020 (Appreciate It).

Unfortunately, I'm not in possession of a crystal ball so I can't tell you with certainty who wins next month, but I do have a good guess.

Willie Mullins is a good starting point. He's won 4/6 renewals since the meeting's inception in 2018 and, frankly, there's precious little opposition from other yards.

His main rival Elliott's big two are going straight to Cheltenham, while the Cullentra handler's other notable winners - namely The Enabler, Wingmen and Patter Merchant - are described as horses for the future who won't be seen much before the autumn.

Mullins' nephew Emmet had a fairly impressive winner in Jeroboam Machin back in November, but the immediate chatter was that he'd go straight over hurdles and he's gone AWOL since.

Pretty much everything else either hasn't been seen yet, and therefore rate unlikely runners, are British-trained or housed at Closutton.

So, now to try and filter through the Mullins runners...

Don't be surprised to see Redemption Day show up here, but he's ineligible for the big one in March due to his age. You Oughta Know is another possibility, though he's been absent since the summer, as are Cantico, Petit Secret, Hens Tooth and Sounds Victorious.

One I fancy is certain to line-up, well-being provided, and could easily be the yard's first-string is Joystick.

The Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old, who fetched €95,000 from the PTP scene, won first time out under rules in a 2m4f bumper which Willie has previously landed with the likes of Appreciate It and Fact To File at Leopardstown over Christmas.

It wasn't the Facile Vega-esque stylish success, but I really liked what I saw - especially in terms of attitude - on what was deplorable ground. Patrick Mullins was positive about him after the fact too.

"Joystick showed a good attitude to win his bumper. He's a tall, narrow horse who reminds me a little bit of Champagne Fever. He's not quite as quick as him but he has a cruising speed and was very tough at Leopardstown."

Patrick Mullins

That could prove strong form, too. The front two pulled over 25L clear of the rest of the field, which featured a fair yardstick in Bleu De Vassy, and the runner-up Artic Lane, who was race-fit having won a PTP impressively just over a month prior, looks a nice prospect himself.

Like many of the yard's runners this season, I expect plenty of improvement to follow. If  that's the case, he'll hopefully go to Dublin with a huge chance - and if he's successful, he'll likely be cut straight into Champion Bumper favouritism.

There are a few lurkers down the betting, such as C'est Ta Chance, Sip Sip Hooray, On Cloud Wine and Soir De Garde, who are yet to step on a racetrack, but it's likely we've seen the winner already and I'm hoping it's Joystick.

Joystick to win the Champion Bumper at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival at 14/1

Stay tuned to Betfred Insights for more Cheltenham Tips as we build-up to the 2024 Festival

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