The Cheltenham bumper has been an Irish benefit since its inception, with only last year’s winner, Cue Card and the ex-Irish Liberman, breaking the visitors stranglehold on the race over the past decade. Indeed ,the winner has come from this country on 14 of the 18 occasions the race has been run to date.
Willie Mullins has been responsible for an incredible six winners and is always the man bookies fear in the run up to the festival. Usually at this point each season, punters are busy guessing which is “the one” from amongst the large number of runners the trainer has to choose from. It may be different this time however, as Mullin’s two standout performers, Lovethehigherlaw and Samain look set to miss the race, as owner Michael O’Leary is not a big fan of bumpers. Killarney winner, Allure Of Illusion has been touted as the stables main hope in recent days, and has been backed accordingly.
A quick glance at this years market reveals the unusual sight of two English trained runners heading the list. The best of the Irish are the aforementioned Allure Of Illusion, Shark Hanlon’s Star Of Neuville and the Colm Murphy trained Raise The Beat.
Speaking to Sportsnewsireland on Thursday, Murphy was hopeful of a big run from his inmate: “He hasn’t really been tested at home and he really could be anything. Similar to Zaarito (3rd in 2009 bumper) he doesn’t take a lot of work and we just keep him ticking over at home”.
Owned by the Winning Ways Enigma Syndicate, the son of Beat All was highly regarded before making his debut in a Killarney bumper in May 2009. Having travelled strongly into the straight, the horse dropped right out, disappointing connections who had expected much better. Murphy believes that the race came too soon for the animal and he was given a break straight after.
“We were very disappointed after his debut as he had been showing us plenty. It probably came a bit early for him, and we decided there and then that he needed time to strengthen up, so we left him off for a year”.
A year later, Raise The Beat returned to the racecourse at Down Royal and was the impressive winner of a bumper. Given the summer off, he next appeared in a winners race at Naas over 2m 3f in October, where he showed a smart turn of foot having cruised throughout.
The step up to 2m 3f was never a worry for Murphy and having proved he stays that far, his trainer sees it as an asset with Cheltenham in mind: ” The Naas race just fitted in to our plans at the time, but I always felt he was a stayer and having shown his ability to get further than 2miles I would have no worries about him lasting home at Cheltenham”.
The group who own the horse, the Winning Ways Enigma Syndicate are one of a number of different syndicates put together by Dublin based accountant, Oran Crean. The latter has had horses with Colm Murphy going back a number of years and was one of the original owners of Brave Inca, along with the O’Tierney family. After that horses success in the 2004 Supreme Novices Hurdle, Crean bought another horse, Kimberlite King and has enjoyed plenty of success with him as well. Each new syndicate is named the Winning Ways Syndicate, but with an added designation, Enigma being the one in the case of Raise The Beat.
The ten strong Winning Ways Enigma Syndicate will be cheering loudly a week on Wednesday, as their pride and joy will be battling it out for festival honours and Ireland’s honour as the horses approach the gruelling uphill finish in the Cheltenham bumper.