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.