The Big Question: Does Rich Ricci hold an embarrassment of riches for this year?
Ricci has an amazing armoury of runners in training with Willie Mullins and will be hoping to pick up plenty of silverware at Cheltenham with the likes of Vautor, Annie Power, Faugheen, Douvan, Djakadam and Champagne Fever.
Faugheen (Evens) is the apple in the eye of both Ricci and Mullins and has been the Champion Hurdle favourite for some considerable time now. After racking up eight consecutive wins, the latest of which being a demolition job of his rivals at Kempton on Boxing Day, it is little wonder that this gelding is considered Ricci’s “banker” of the Festival.
There still remains however uncertainty over who will actually ride Ricci’s Champion Hurdle hot-pot on the race day itself. Ricci’s preference is undoubtedly for Ruby Walsh, but Walsh insists he won’t make his final decision until next Sunday after the declarations are made.
Being torn between the legend that is Hurricane Fly, and the superstar of the future Faugheen, is obviously a conundrum for Ruby Walsh, but all indications are he’ll opt for the latter when the chips are down and that should please his owner no end.
The doubly engaged mare Annie Power is another Rich Ricci runner with strong credentials of lifting a Cheltenham trophy but which race will she go for? Coral’s make Annie Power a 4/7 shot for the Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Festival, however in recent days there has been a steady stream of money for the chestnut mare in the World Hurdle too and she’s priced at 4/1.
Mullins certainly knows how to train a winner of a Mares’ Hurdle after winning the last six consecutive runnings of the race with the wonder mare Quevega. If Annie Power can at least emulate one of those successes next week then Ricci and his wife Susannah will be dancing with joy.
On the Friday, Ricci will be hoping that he can add the blue-riband event of the meeting, the Cheltenham Gold Cup to his potential haul of winners. Djakadam, a 10/1 shot for the feature race is fresh from winning the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park and is well touted as a young chaser going places.
With such an amazing raiding party of horses coming over to Prestbury Park who would bet against Rich Ricci being the top owner of the meeting? The odds on offer for achieving that feat are currently 6/4 and it will most certainly be a popular bet with Cheltenham punters.