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Thursday 3 November 2016

Rich to Keep Getting Richer

"Cheltenham racecourse" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06
It promises to be another stellar season for leading owner Rich Ricci as he contemplates which races to target with his battalion of pink-clad equine stars. The biggest conundrum for Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins will be how to keep their runners apart and which big targets they should be taking aim at over the season. Wherever the big prizes are to be won in Britain and Ireland, Ricci's runners are sure to be prominent in the Bet365 racing betting, with Douvan, Vautour, Annie Power and Faugheen amongst the top talents in the now iconic pink and green silks.
Ricci's recent revelation that Douvan might run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day has certainly muddied the waters when it comes to the chasers. Last season's Arkle hero, still unbeaten, is widely expected to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March. Such has been the majesty of Douvan's runs over two-miles that he would be almost un-opposable in that race.
Were he to keep his unblemished record by winning the King George, there would of course be a clamour to make the Gold Cup his primary spring target. Ricci – like Mullins – has yet to win the Blue Riband and having made a potential error back in March by re-routing Vautour at the Ryanair Chase instead of the Gold Cup, they would be loathe to swerve it in the event that Douvan showed up well over the three-mile trip at Kempton.
There is also the case of Vautour to consider. Narrowly denied by Cue Card in the Kempton showpiece last December, he is entitled to another shot at the prize and Ricci says he could line up. Mullins and Ricci may fancy a tilt at the £1m Jockey Club Triple Crown Bonus this season and that would mean having a rare runner in Haydock's Betfair Chase. Vautour is surely the logical contender for that Grade One and if he is victorious on Merseyside, all roads would lead to Kempton. It is worth remembering that Vautour routinely seems to be able to bring his very best form out at Cheltenham in March. He has won in all three festival appearances and, whichever race he appears in come the spring, Vautour will be one to keep onside.

"National Hunt Chase" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06
There is also plenty to consider in the hurdling ranks after Annie Power worked the oracle as last season's Champion Hurdle supersub. She brilliantly ended a 22-year wait for a mare to win the two-mile contest and what's more, she did so in the fastest time that has been posted this century in the race. Surely Annie Power will get the chance to retain her crown?
That could mean Faugheen heads the way of the World Hurdle. There has been speculation that he will step up in trip and the stayers contest could be his destination. Injury denied Faugheen his chance to defend the Champion Hurdle crown in March but no one should forget that he had produced what many felt was a career-best performance at Leopardstown in February before being sidelined. There's no doubting the Mullins and Ricci axis of power will be winning races over the course of this jumps season. They have the firepower to potentially dominate and their biggest challenge might well be in deciding how to distribute their considerable wealth as each big race comes along.


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