Check out Mark Howard's views on the Champion Bumper

Cheltenham Festival tips: Mark Howard Portfolio February 1

Mark Howard reckons Brandy Love should be backed at 16/1 for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper ahead of her weekend outing at Leopardstown.

Cheltenham Festival tips: Mark Howard Portfolio

Brandy Love in Weatherbys Champion Bumper at 16/1

Already advised

Provided the weather decides to play ball, we look set for a superb weekend’s sport with the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown spearheading the action with eight Grade 1 events.

Sandown plays host to the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, it is Musselburgh’s biggest two days in their jumping calendar with their trials meeting, while the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase is the centrepiece to Wetherby’s card on Saturday assuming the A1 track has dried and thawed out following a deluge of snow and rain in recent weeks.

The Grade 2 bumpers at Leopardstown have had quite a bearing on the Festival bumper at Cheltenham in recent years. The newly retired Relegate won the mares’ version in 2018 at 16/1 under Katie Walsh before repeating the dose at even bigger odds nearly six weeks later at the home of jumping racing.

Twelve months on, Envoi Allen did likewise as he saw off his errant stablemate Abacadabras, who crashed through the rails when mounting his challenge. Gordon Elliott’s brilliant seven year old went on to record the first of his five Grade 1 wins at Cheltenham the following month.

It would therefore be no surprise if either of this weekend’s bumpers unearthed a future Festival winner.

The gelding’s version, which is the finale on Saturday’s card, is made up of 16 previous winners, a handful of which are unbeaten and they include three each from the Elliott and Mullins’ barns. None of those trained by the former have tasted defeat yet, including the red hot ante-post Festival favourite Sir Gerhard, who will bid to provide Cheveley Park Stud with their third consecutive win in the Weatherbys-backed Grade 1 contest in March.

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Time will tell who lines up at 4.25, but there is every chance there will be a couple of future stars amongst the field.

The mares’ version at 4.40 on Sunday is no less intriguing, especially if the aforementioned Elliott elects to unleash his latest pricey purchase Hollymount. Bred to be smart being a younger sibling to the talented but injury prone pair Malone Road and Ravenill Road, she is also a relative to Brian Ellison’s 146-rated chaser Windsor Avenue.

The five year old created quite an impression when beating ten rivals by upwards of eight lengths at Carlisle in December when trained by Stuart Crawford. Bought for £300,000 since, she is another exciting prospect for owners Noel and Valerie Moran.

Hollymount is a daughter of Jet Away and so, too, is the Willie Mullins trained BRANDY LOVE.

An eight lengths winner of her only point-to-point for Colin Bowe nearly a year ago, she subsequently changed hands for £200,000 six days later. The five year old made an explosive start to her Rules career at Fairyhouse in mid December with a facile seven lengths win. Patrick Mullins barely moved a muscle as his mount moved through the gears to extend away in the home straight.

The form may not amount to much (third and fourth beaten since) but visually, she couldn’t have done any more. Similar to the Morans, Mancunian businessman Mike Grech has quickly built up a formidable team of youngsters, including another bumper winner I Am Maximus, but Brandy Love could prove the jewel in the crown.

It is worth noting Brandy Love has gained her two wins on heavy ground but her dam Bambootcha, who was also trained in Ireland, scored three times on good and good to firm surfaces. Therefore she may prove equally adept on a livelier terrain.

Mares have won half of the last four renewals of the Cheltenham Festival bumper and Brandy Love could enhance that record still further this spring.

Widely available at 16/1 (Bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, Sky Bet and William Hill) or 14/1 (Paddy Power, NRNB), now looks the time to step in before she makes a significant impact at the weekend.

Published at 1100 GMT on 01/02/21

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