‘The maddest f***er on the planet.’ That is how American millionaire Rich Ricci describes himself. The tweed suit, dark shade-wearing businessman has one of the loudest personalities in the entirety of the UK and Ireland’s National Hunt racing scene, and he even has the silks to match. His iconic pink and green polka dot colours are often seen in the winners’ enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival, and are even donned in the form of scarfs and ties by thousands of racegoers at Prestbury Park.
Over the years, horse racing fans have fallen in love with Ricci’s rather impressive contingent of horses, which includes the likes Djakadam, Douvan, Vautour, Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag and Min. Of course, there’s an obvious reason why punters have grown to love Ricci and his horses, and that’s because they are serial winners!
The 2016 Festival is one that particularly springs to mind when you think of Rich Ricci horses topping the Cheltenham races results. The American pocketed almost half a million quid in prize money by the end of day one, as Douvan won the Arkle, Annie Power bounced back from that agonising fall in 2015 to win the Champion Hurdle and Vroum Vroum Mag reigned victorious in the Mares’ Hurdle. Whilst those victories bagged Ricci £400,000 in prize money, it cost the bookies a whopping £10 million.
Of course, for Ricci £400,000 is a mere drop in the ocean. Some of his fleet probably cost more than that! The American made his riches as the CEO of Barclays Bank, where he thrived during the recession. A director of Barclays once said, “He’s bald and he gets shit done, that’s all we know.” But in 2013, he was paid off with a huge sum worth over £40m.
Despite being based in England, Ricci prefers Irish racing and he has formed a formidable bond with top trainer Willie Mullins over the years. Ricci and his wife Susannah often take their private jet over to Ireland to watch their large contingent of horses in action, and when asked if he prefers Irish racing to the UK, he said: “I often get calls from trainers in England wondering why I don’t have horses in training there, considering I’m based in England, but I just love Irish racing.
“The people are fantastic, the atmosphere is really good and the prize-money is still attractive. My wife and I get a real buzz from it.”
With the Cheltenham Festival now just around the corner, you can bet that Ricci will have his fair share of horses popping up in the fast racing results. Min will have his sights set on defending his Ryanair Chase crown, whilst Chacun Pour Soi is the favourite to scoop the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Then there’s Monkfish, who is being heavily tipped to win the Festival Novices’ Chase, which could then lead to the seven-year-old landing Ricci his first ever Gold Cup triumph in the future! 10-year-old Benie Des Dieux is another favourite from Mullins’ yard. She is expected to win the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.
As always, Ricci’s top-class contingent will have the bookies sweating across the four days, and we’re sure we’ll see his recognisable colours in the winners’ enclosure more than once.