It's hard to believe, but the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter -- the service designed to put the fun back in fund investing -- has been up and running for more than a year now. Our collection of picks has fared well since we first opened for business; indeed, taken together, our basket of funds has beaten its benchmarks (the S&P 500 for stock picks and the iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond Fund ETF for fixed-income Champs) by nearly four percentage points, a positively princely sum in the wonderful world of mutual funds.

To be sure, short-term performance doesn't mean much (nor should it) to long-term types like you and me. Still, it's gratifying to have started off by besting hard-to-beat index trackers such as Fidelity's Spartan 500 (FUND:FSMKX) and Spartan Total Market (FUND:FSTMX) funds, not to mention popular exchange-traded funds (ETFs) such as Diamonds (NYSE:DIA) and Cubes (NASDAQ:QQQQ).

Indeed, among our many winners, one pick has surpassed the S&P by a whopping 19 percentage points since I recommended it, thanks to an eclectic portfolio that features the likes of First American (NYSE:FAF), real estate and agriculture concern Tejon Ranch (NYSE:TRC), and electrical-equipment manufacturer American Power Conversion (NASDAQ:APCC). Tejon Ranch and American Power Conversion have both sprinted to double-digit gains in 2005.

In addition to cherry-picking the fund industry's best and brightest, we've recently begun assembling those funds into portfolios as well. Indeed, the issue of Champion Funds that hits the streets today provides the complete picture: We now have Championship-quality models for Aggressive, Moderate, and Conservative investors.

Each of 'em is just a risk-free trial away, but to get a sense of what they look like in profile, check out this handy-dandy chart, which aggregates Morningstar's historical data about the funds that comprise our models through the end of March 2005.

Domestic Stock
Fund Average
Champion Funds
Models Average
Manager Tenure 4.7 years 9.4 years
Expense Ratio 1.46% 0.76%
12b-1 Fee 0.41% 0.01%
+/- S&P (3 yrs) 1.27% 6.92%
+/- S&P (5 yrs) 2.78% 10.44%
Turnover 98% 38%

Numbers game
Like what you see? Me, too.

But as impressive as those numbers are, they wouldn't amount to a hill of beans without the, ahem, story behind the story. To that end, in Champion Funds we look beyond past performance and into the manager's track record. A fund's five-star rating, after all, may well belong to a crew that isn't even on the scene now. And when your goal is to pick tomorrow's winners today, you proceed from the assumption that a fund is only as strong as the folks who are calling the shots now.

Our funds, therefore, have outstanding track records during their current managers' tenure. That's especially important because, while fund companies are prone to touting a fund's past success, rarely do they tell you if that track record belongs to the team that's in charge right now.

But never fear: Champion Funds does tell you that -- and a whole lot more besides. Indeed, the funds I've selected have all the key ingredients I look for when shopping for mutual funds myself. Their managers are proven, their strategies sound, and their expense ratios reasonable.

I'll have more to say about our model portfolios in upcoming articles, so please stand by. And while you're standing.

Be sure to take a free test-drive of Champion Funds. To borrow a few words from David Gardner, the Fool's co-commander in chief:

"Read an issue, and discover for yourself whether it fulfills the spirit of our mission to educate, to amuse, and to enrich. Is your money optimally invested in funds? Our service may end up saving or earning you tens of thousands of dollars -- or more. And I guarantee we won't take a percentage of assets."

Thanks, Dave. Couldn't have said it better myself.

This article was originally published on March 22, 2005. It has been updated.

Shannon Zimmerman is a fund fan and Fool of long standing. He owns shares of Fidelity Spartan Total Market Index. The Fool has a disclosure policy.