There are few characters in the horse racing world quite like Rich Ricci.
The former banker – who has previously labelled himself the ‘maddest f***er on the planet’ – is an extremely shrewd investor and has had a decorated career in the racing world.
At Cheltenham in 2016, the American famously won just shy of £400,000 in prize money after three of his horses – Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag – all won, costing bookies an estimated £10m in the process.
Ricci – who was once co-chief executive of Barclays‘ investment banking arm – has formed a long-standing partnership with Willie Mullins who trains all of his horses, while they were regularly ridden by the now-retired jockey Ruby Walsh.
Rarely receptive to interviews or speaking to the press, Ricci sat down exclusively with Paddy Power and Walsh for the Paddy Power Racing YouTube channel to reflect on his fascinating experiences at the Festival over the years.
Rich Ricci (centre) sat down with Ruby Walsh exclusively for Paddy Power’s YouTube channel
The former banker reflected on his many experiences at Cheltenham Festival over the years
In an entertaining one hour chat, the trio bounced off each other as they reminisced on their highs and lows at Cheltenham, while there is an in-depth insight into the relationship between Ricci, Walsh and Mullins, along with a look ahead to this year’s festival.
The story starts at the beginning when Ricci is pressed on his background to his ownership career with the American specifying how ‘it’s definitely not an investment but a hobby’.
He pointed to the influence of his family on helping to capture his original love for the sport.
Ricci said: ‘My grandfather was an immigrant from Italy in the US. He didn’t speak much English but he spoke ‘racetrack English’ and we used to go to the racetrack together.
‘I always say he invented cashout because if you won the first race and the second race – what we called ‘the daily double’ – he would then sell his (betting) ticket to others to get people to take a chance on the rest of the bet coming in.’
Ricci’s humorous nature, something that has made him so popular in the racing world, is evident straight away during the sit down chat after he bit back at suggestions he is sporting a mullet.
He joked: ‘I grew it during lockdown and I have no hair so it’s nice to have the wind blow through something.
‘I like standing out in the wind and feeling my hair. Only about two people I know like it and they work for me so that’s probably why.’
Ricci (R), a larger-than-life character, has become one of the most popular owners in the sport
Ricci also opened up on his relationship with renowned trainer Willie Mullins and pointed to how the pair have grown in the sport together.
The businessman said: ‘I think Willie’s great that our horses are around the big festivals.
‘When I first met him, his yard was nowhere near as it is now. I remember saying to him “why aren’t you a champion trainer”.
‘He replied “I don’t have the ammunition”, so I said to him if we have success I’ll give you the ammunition and we went from there.’
The three proceeded to go through several memories from Cheltenham, including highs such as Ricci’s first winner at the Festival ‘Mikael D’Haguenet’ in the 2009 Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, Champagne Fever’s back-to-back successes in 2012 and 2013, along with several others.
This included Vautour and Faugheen, the latter of which you can tell is one of his favourite ever horses.
Ricci revealed how he can’t watch races as he’s too nervous so instead walks down to the side of the track and ‘turns his back’ to the action, going off the reaction of the crowd.
Furthermore, the nature of the life of a racehorse owner is disclosed in full during the sit down as Ricci, Power and Walsh look back on the remarkable redemption story of Annie Power.
In 2015, she fell in the Mares hurdle before winning the Championship Hurdle a year later.
Ricci pictured with Walsh (right) back in 2014 – the pair enjoyed a very strong relationship
WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER ODDS
It’s For Me – 7/2
A Dream to Share – 4/1
*Chapeau De Soleil – 8/1
Fun Fun Fun – 8/1
Pour Les Filles – 8/1
Better Days Ahead – 10/1
Fact To File – 10/1
Western Diego – 10/1
Encanto Bruno – 12/1
Westport Cove – 14/1
*Owned by Rich Ricci
Ricci reflected: ‘When she fell in 2015 my concern was whether she was OK. The silence of the crowd was something.
‘It was an extraordinary sensory experience just listening to them. It was tough. I just thank God she was OK. In my trade if you lose money put it behind you and get to the next one. It’s the same with the horses as long as they’re OK.
‘In 2016 I was bawling my eyes out when she won. Sport is about redemption and it was a brilliant contrast to the year before. I was so happy for Ruby.’
Ricci also explained how the colours of pink and fluorescent green that have become iconic with those jockeys riding his horses all came about due to his wife Susannah – who chose the colours after having a handbag of a similar design.
The horse owner – who admitted he has ‘never ridden a horse’ and is just ‘a receiver of instructions’- then looked ahead to this year’s Festival and explained how he is confident for success after a transitional period for his stable of horses.
He added: ‘We’ve bought a lot of horses that haven’t worked out recently. We had some success on the flat with our jumping horses who couldn’t jump so we bought dual-purpose horses which didn’t work so we had to get rid of a lot.
‘We lost our discipline a bit and we went through a transition last year. But we’ve bought well and we’ll be at it again this year. We’ll keep going.
‘It’s great to go back through memory lane. Hopefully we’ve got some horses that are talked about in the future.
‘Horse Racing is a wonderful sport and we remain committed to the game.’
Cheltenham Rewind with Rich Ricci. Live from 6pm on Wednesday on the Paddy Power Racing YouTube channel