Rich Ricci

Rich Ricci  American-born Rich Ricci – whose horses officially run in the pink and green colours of his wife, Susannah – has risen to prominence as one of the most successful National Hunt owners in Britain and Ireland in recent years. A colourful, yet enigmatic, character, Ricci is former Barclays investment banker, worth an estimated £100 million, but his “Keep Buyin’ and Keep Tryin’” philosophy has certainly paid dividends at the Cheltenham Festival. Ricci has struck up a formidable partnership with the dominant force in Irish National Hunt racing, Willie Mullins, with whom he has enjoyed 15 successes at the Gloucestershire track.

The first of them, Mikael D’Haguenet, won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in 2009 and, since 2012, Ricci has had at least one winner at every Cheltenham Festival. Champagne Fever proved to be a standard bearer for three Festivals running, winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2013 before being headed in the last stride in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2014.

Ricci has also be fortunate, or shrewd, enough to own several more multiple winners at the Cheltenham Festival. The ill-fated Vautour, for example, won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2014, the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2015 and the Ryanair Chase in 2016, before breaking his leg in a freak accident at home later the same year. Faugheen, who won the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2014, completed a notable double in the Champion Hurdle in 2015, while Douvan, the winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle that year, made equally short work of subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy on his return to Prestbury Park in 2016.

In recent years, the Ricci string has been less powerful than previously but, even so, victories for Let’s Dance in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2017 and Benie Des Dieux in 2018 have kept the ball rolling.

Tiger Roll

Tiger Roll  Racing Post Jumps Horse of the Year for 2017/18, Tiger Roll, stands 15.2 hands high and has been described – endearingly, one would hope – as a “little rat of a thing” by his owner Michael O’Leary. Nevertheless, the diminutive 8-year-old silenced his doubters by holding on to win the greatest steeplechase of them all, the Grand National, by a head under Davy Russell in April, 2018.

His owner had voiced his concern over his ability to handle the National fences, saying, “Tiger Roll either takes to it [Aintree] or he doesn’t. With him you’ll know after three fences if it’s a going day or not. If he can survive the first circuit, and gaps come in those big fences, then we’ll see. But you never know with him.” His trainer, Gordon Elliott, was also pessimistic about his chances, saying, “The ground was soft-to-heavy, so I thought the ground might be too soft for him.”

Even before his Aintree victory, though, Tiger Roll had become part of Cheltenham Festival folklore by winning in two different disciplines, over three different distances and under three different jockeys, in the space of five seasons.

In 2014, he won the JCB Triumph Hurdle, over 2 miles 1 furlong, under Davy Russell, in 2017, he won the National Hunt Chase, over 4 miles, under Lisa O’Neill and, in 2018, a month before his Grand National triumph, he won the Glenfarclas Chase, over 3 miles 6 furlongs – on a unique, twisting, turning course of banks, rails and ditches – under Keith Donoghue.