Racing UK

Rich Ricci says signs are “positive” for return of Faugheen

Tuesday 10 January 2017

By Andy Stephens

Rich Ricci has indicated that Faugheen is on course to make his eagerly awaited reappearance at Leopardstown this month.

The brilliant 2015 Champion Hurdle winner has been on the sidelines almost a year after injuring a suspensory ligament.

Ricci is chairman of BetBright and in his latest blog for them the leading owner said: “I am very hopeful we will see Faugheen in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle on January 29th. We are not there yet, but the signs are positive.”

There was no mention of Annie Power in his “stable update” but he offered plenty of views on a number of his other stars, who are all trained by Willie Mullins.

Douvan is no bigger than 4-9 to win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase after looking as good as ever in his two races this term. His next outing could be the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown.  

“We are very lucky and privileged to own him and I think all of us associated with him are a little in awe of him,” Ricci said.

“I know there is a lot of noise out there that we should have gone to the King George and that we are not challenging him enough, but he has just turned seven and we want to preserve him for as long as possible.

“There are not a huge amount of options for him between now and Cheltenham but the Tied Cottage at Punchestown is a possibility. Hopefully we can get him to March in one piece, we know as well as anyone how difficult that is, and we will figure the rest out from there.”

Ricci has another exciting two-mile chaser on his hands in Min and he is relishing a rematch with Altior, his conqueror in last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle, in the Arkle. The pair dominate the ante-post betting.

“He was electric [when winning at Leopardstown over Christmas] and I have rarely seen Ruby so animated on the run in,” Ricci said. “While we were beaten in the Supreme last year I think he had to race and battle for arguably his first time, and as we know suffered a season-ending injury mid race.

“He has demonstrated a tractability and intelligence over fences that I don’t think we saw last season and has really grown up.

“Touch wood, he will probably go to Leopardstown again for the Frank Ward Arkle before Cheltenham and another battle with Altior who looks exceptional and is a deceptively big horse who really fills the eye – it’s easy to see why they went chasing with him.

“We have a bit to find with him but they both look better chasers than hurdlers and we are looking forward to taking him on again.”

Djakadam, runner-up in the past two runnings of the Gold Cup, remains on course to try and make it third time lucky.

He is a general 14-1 chance for chasing’s blue riband after finishing third in the Lexus Chase on his latest start.

Reflecting on that defeat, Ricci said: “It was an odd result in my mind as I couldn’t see how over the longer trip Outlander would reverse the Durkan form with us.

“Maybe we could have made more use of him, I don’t know, but travelling over to Leopardstown he was the one horse I said to myself if he is beaten I wouldn’t be too despondent.

“Given he started his season in the John Durkan, where he ran after that was always going to be a conundrum. We didn’t particularly want to go back to Cheltenham before the Gold Cup, the Irish Gold Cup is perhaps a little close to March for Djak, while the Lexus was pretty close to his first run.

“So it was the lesser of three evils I guess and I would have no issue if Willie wants to go straight to the Festival with him.”

A firm target for Vroum Vroum Mag, winner of the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, has yet to be confirmed.

“We don’t want her to be super sub all the time, and I think had we had a clear run with Faugheen and Annie [Power] this season she would have been over fences, but we are where we are and are very lucky to be in a position that she can adapt,” Ricci said.

“Having watched it back [her last win over three miles at Leopardstown] I think she was idling. She has such acceleration but then seems to pull herself up in front before going on again when needed.”

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