Top owner Rich Ricci, the principal supporter of the all-powerful Willie Mullins stable at Closutton, had an excellent level of success at both the Leopardstown and Limerick Christmas Festivals, having taken key Grade 1 races on the first three days at the Dublin venue.
The American spoke about Vroom Vroom Mag and Djakadam who both ran on Day 3 (Wednesday) of the Leopardstown racing extravaganza. Ricci admitted there had been quite a lot of discussion as to where Vroom Vroom Mag would run, and in what event:
“At three miles, we had a lot of debate about where she should run, whether at Kempton or here. We decided to come down on the side of the 3 mile race. New trip for her over hurdles but she certainly seemed to get it over fences.”
The classy mare successfully held off the challenge of her stable companion Clondaw Warrior to return to winning ways in Grade 1 company.
Djakadam a recent winner of the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase in early December, finished third in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase behind Outlander and Don Poli. According to Djakadam’s owner “ … hopefully he’ll come on for that run, I’d imagine he would.”
Min, a winner of the Grade 1 Racing Post Chase on St. Stephen’s Day, is a horse Ricci is very excited about and is looking forward to his participation in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham where he will probably meet Altior, an impressive winner at Kempton over the Christmas holidays:
“He’s very good. I have been saying since he got the summer off. He got hurt at Cheltenham … he’s a different horse over fences and he’s brilliant, so far, so good. Altior is also very good. If they both stay healthy and get there, it’ll be a great race (Arkle Chase at Cheltenham).”
Rich Ricci went on: “He settles a hell of a lot better over fences than he did over hurdles, that’s for sure. He doesn’t run nearly as keenly and he seems to really like fencing.”
Money-on favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, Douvan, also in the Ricci ownership, drew almost 18,000 patrons to Leopardstown on Day 2 of the Festival where he was mercurial in victory in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Cashcard Steeplechase. His proud owner was ebullient in his praise for the horse who is now 8 from 8 with Ruby Walsh on board:
“He’s very good, he’s very efficient in what he does, he’s a pleasure to own, he’s a lovely horse. England’s got Thistlecrack and we’ve got Douvan. It’s nice to have a Champion for Ireland so hopefully he goes on and does it at Cheltenham. He’s very good … he just goes from strength to strength .. we’ve never seen him off the bridle.
Asked about a possible prep race before the Cheltenham Festival Ricci said:
“There’s a Grade 1 between now and Cheltenham here. We might see him in England. We won’t have to necessarily run him again before Cheltenham … If you don’t see him again before Cheltenham, I imagine it’s Cheltenham and Punchestown and done, but it would be nice to get him out again.”
The prolific winning owner also spoke about impressive Cheltenham Champion Hurdler of 2015 Faugheen, and his stablemate who succeeded him in 2016, Annie Power:
“Both are grand. Both working away. Hopefully you’ll see them both very soon. With all our horses you know the target is Cheltenham and we work back from there, but they’re both very well, and hopefully you’ll see them both very soon.”