O’Leary calls for Cheltenham Champion Bumper to be restricted to amateur jockeys

Gigginstown spokesman indicates Darling Daughter will line up in festival contest

Gigginstown Stud spokesman Eddie O’Leary has called for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham to be restricted to amateur riders.

O’Leary has long been sceptical about running Gigginstown’s best young horses in the race which closes Day Two of the Cheltenham festival although he hasn’t ruled out having runners this time.

On Friday he nominated Darling Daughter, a shock 25-1 winner of the Grade Two mares’ bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier this month, as a likely starter in less than three weeks’ time.

O’Leary is also prepared to consider the Cheltenham race should either of the two Gigginstown hopes, Farouk d’Alene and Fire Attack, impress at Naas on Sunday.

However he continues to believe Cheltenham can be too tough a test for young horses at the beginning of their careers and would prefer the race confined to amateur jockeys like bumpers in Ireland are.

”I think they would make it a far better race if they made it an amateur race. Putting the professionals up in those bumpers in England is a retrograde step.

”It’s well known I don’t like the race. My biggest thing is that it ruins young horses. If it was an amateur race I don’t think there would be half the wastage,” O’Leary said.

The Cheltenham bumper was introduced in 1992 and has always been open to professional jockeys. Renowned riders such as Richard Dunwoody and Ruby Walsh each won it more than once.

However the last three renewals have been won by amateurs with Jamie Codd successful on Fayonagh (2017) and Envoi Allen a year ago. Katie Walsh scored on Relegate in 2018.

Darling Daughter is 16-1 for this year’s race which is dominated at the top of the market by Willie Mullins’s Appreciate It.

“Darling Daughter will probably go to Cheltenham. She won well at Leopardstown and the mare she beat [Politesse] won very well yesterday,” O’Leary said.

Home reputation

Sunday’s bumper at Naas has a pedigree of throwing up future stars. Hairy Molly (2005) and Pizarro (2002) both won the Cheltenham championship while no less than the subsequent Ascot Gold Cup hero Rite Of Passage was successful in 2009.

O’Leary’s £260,000 buy Farouk d’Alene lived up to his big home reputation with a sauntering victory at Down Royal on St Stephen’s Day and is a general 16-1 shot for Cheltenham. Fire Attack beat Julies Stowaway in his only start at Limerick over Christmas.

“If one of them happened to win very well we would talk about it [Cheltenham] then. They’re both nice but we’ll get by Sunday first,” O’Leary said.

Sunday’s Naas card is billed as a ‘Road To Cheltenham’ fixture although JP McManus’s Andy Dufresne has already been ruled out of the festival.

He lines up in the Grade Two Paddy Power Novice Hurdle but his rival Mt Leinster emerges in front of him on ratings.

Sunday’s other black-type contest is the two-mile Grade Three chase which opens the programme. The Durkan runner-up Hardline and last season’s Topham winner Cadmium could fight out the finish.

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