Did Jamie Spencer once win the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival?
The short answer is yes, he did. The Champion Bumper, or Weatherbys Champion Bumper, as it has been known, for sponsorship purposes, since 1997, is the most prestigious race of its kind in the British National Hunt calendar. Run over 2 miles and 87 yards on the Old Course at Cheltenham, the Champion Bumper is officially a ‘National Hunt Flat Race’ and, as such, is contested from time to time by jockeys better known in the sphere of Flat racing.
One such jockey is Tipperary-born Jamie Spencer, who has won the Flat Jockeys’ Championship on both sides of the Irish Sea and ridden well over 2,000 winners. However, in 2002, Spencer was recruited by Irish trainer Edward O’Grady to ride his unbeaten five-year-old Pizarro in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Sent off at 14/1, Pizarro responded well to Spencer’s patient riding style, making headway from the rear of the field to lead inside the final furlong. However, he immediately hung sharply right inside the final furlong and was ultimately all out to hold the favourite, Rhinestone Cowboy, by a neck. Pizarro made three further appearances at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing promoted second in the Royal & Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle in 2003, being brought down in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase in 2004 and falling in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2005.