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Rich Ricci exclusive: This year more than ever is tailored around success at Cheltenham

by Sean Goff | March 6, 2015

It may seem a bit of a contradiction to invite the man whose runners will possibly have you hitting the profit warning button by the end of next week to a preview night.

But Rich Ricci rolled into London town for a no horse-shit debate with Paddy, Matt Chapman and Sam Twiston-Davies last Monday night to discuss his main Cheltenham contenders.

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Douvan already threatens to get punters off to a flyer in the very first race of the Festival when he lines up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday.

I think he’s got a huge future – hopefully as a chaser. He’s been on the go a long time as we got him from France. We’ve a lot of confidence in him and it would be a dream come true if I was to win the race three years on the trot. I don’t think anyone has ever done that. The Supreme looks a weaker race than the Neptune this year. He hasn’t been asked the really big question as he’s quite difficult to get off the bridle at home but we’ve a lot of confidence in him. Does he deserve to be 7/4 f – we’ll see. Personally, I think he’ll be a bigger price on the day.

And with Ruby Walsh edging closer to a decision – in public at least – on whether he’ll ride ante-post fav Faugheen the Mo’chine or best bud Hurricane Fly, the former head of Barclays is confident his horse can win. But don’t diss the Fly, You hear me, Matt?

1. Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle

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We’ve all been to these nights when the owner, jockey,trainer spends more time sitting on the fence that your average Match of the Day pundit waffling away and dodging the question. Dont say you didn’t hear this from (both) horses’ mouths – even if you can’t see his head.

2. Cheltenham banker

There are actually quite a few horses that Rich Ricci doesn’t own heading into the four day smash up. So given the quality he already has – these two must be pretty special right?

3. Who would you like to own

We couldn’t let him go without getting the lowdown on exciting novice Djakadam in Friday’s Gold Cup. Apparently he’s been ‘fat’ in this two races so far this season so there’s still room for him to become the altogether more hipster ‘PHAT’ in the Blue Riband, Willie Mullins may want to only start the clip after 25 seconds.

4. Cheltenham Gold Cup

And for anyone who wasn’t there here’s what Ricci had to say on some on some of his other runners, Ruby Walsh and lucky suits …

Champagne Fever

With his record at Cheltenham I think we have to go for the two miler, the Champion Chase although the obvious race for him is the Ryanair Chase – but Ballycasey may run in that.

We all know you need to stay at Cheltenham to win those two mile races on the old courses. I think that if we are to ever win a Champion Chase, this is our year to do it. I worry about Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy and Dodging Bullets.

But Champagne Fever performed brilliantly the last day at Gowran Park. He seem rejuvenated because of that and his form over two miles at Cheltenham is pretty spectacular.

Champagne Fever840

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Ruby (Walsh) likes to ride him from the front. Paul (Townend) rode him just off the pace but handy enough. I think we might get a tow in that race – it will be like the proverbial off a shovel which would be good.

I think if Sprinter Sacre shows up as he was, he would be very hard to beat. They’re making all the right noises from the yard but I think that’s to scare us all off. I think Sire de Grugy, fair play to them they ran him in that handicap, that was a tough old race. I think we must go with a good chance, as with Dodging Bullets. It’s a wide open race and it could be anyone’s this year.

If Ruby ditches one of your runners, do you think you have no chance?

I think it would be disappointing if he did. You’re always going to feel second best if the yard’s jockey doesn’t pick your horse. I’d be hopeful that he would pick ours. But it’s Ruby’s decision and it is his announcement to make not mine.

I hope Ruby rides Faugheen. If he wants to ride Hurricane Fly that’s grand.

I’m comfortable in Faugheen’s ability and I think the horse will win no matter who rides him.


Are you worried about Faugheen not having a run in 2015?

Yep, the stats don’t lie. I didn’t want to travel him a third time to England. But I think that managing the horses well and perhaps not running them in all the big races in Ireland is worth all the success that we’ve had. I could be proved wrong this year and it is entirely possible that we get shut out at Cheltenham this year, and if that’s the case we’ll have to revisit what our strategy is.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I think that Faugheen ran an extraordinary race in the Neptune, he kicked three of the last four hurdles out of the ground and he still stayed up and won unbelievably. His run at Punchestown gave us food for thought, that he could jump better at speed and we had a long debate.

Would Faugheen have met Hurricane Fly by now if he was trained by Noel Meade?


Any lucky suits?

Brown suit with a bit of pink, so if I’m wearing that on Tuesday I think you should pile in.

If you could have only one winner, which one would you choose – outside of Faugheen

I think Annie Power will win. I’d love to see Djakadam winning the Gold Cup.

Why jumping over flat racing?

National Hunt provided a better opportunity over the flat, as its dominated by a few people, and National Hunt is a wider spectrum. Flat is more about money, National Hunt is not, it is more about winning. I only punt for the entertainment, not for the prize money.

I had my first runner at Cheltenham in 2007 so I’ve been in the game for almost a decade. I was overwhelmed by the passion of the people, the kindness of the people, that Cathedral of a winners’ enclosure that you walk into when you’ve had a winner. It’s just unbelievable.

Having a runner at Cheltenham certainly whetted my appetite and was a real elixir to invest more money in the game.

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