By Geoffrey Riddle
Rich Ricci was at Cheltenham on Saturday for the launch of the BetBright Cup, the contest between Great Britain and Ireland during the Cheltenham Festival in March.
It was announced that snooker legend Ken Doherty would be the captain of the Irish team, while Phil Tufnell the former cricketer, will continue to lead the British.
Afterwards, the leading owner spun through some of his key horses ahead of next week's Dublin Racing Festival.
Faugheen ready to go:Faugheen is a best-priced Even money for the Irish Champion Hurdle (PA)
"Fingers crossed - he has some questions to answer. I don't know what happnened at Christmas - he seems to be back well in himself.
"I want him to go out and win and win like I know he can run. If not, he is going to have a hard time justifying his place in the race at Cheltenham [Champion Hurdle] against Buveur D’Air. I really want to see him go out and do what he did a couple of years ago, that would be ideal.
"I don’t think age is catching up with him. He is so lightly-raced and his work has been very good. I am telling you everybody was shocked at the performance at Leopardstown. He didn’t look his best in the ring, and they found nothing more sinister than just one of those things. Fingers crossed he comes back and does it. He is a brilliant horse and needs a break."
"I take some comfort from the fact that around that time Willie [Mullins] horses were a bit in and out. Some of mine ran horribly and it turns out some of them had a snotty nose, or something like that. You wouldn't have wanted to be hiding under a rock these past three weeks. He has turned everything over and nothing has come to light, which is good news.
Douvan 50-50 for the Cheltenham Festival:Douvan is no better than 6-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase (PA)
"It was just the oddest thing. We are still not quite sure what happened. He was intermittently lame, is the best way to describe it and we don’t know whether it was related to a former injury. The vets told us he was out for the season and we sent him away and all of a sudden he turned a corner and he was back and completely healthy. We started to do bits with him – a lot of walking and now he is back in training.I am hopeful to make the Festival.
"He can’t afford any setbacks and it is all systems go. We won’t run him unless he is there to run a big race. I would say he is 50-50. It is straight there or nothing. They will start stepping up his work and he’ll have two or three critical bits and a day away."
Vroum Vroum Mag – leaning towards retirement:Vroum Vroum Mag has not run since April and could be retired (PA)
"She is still in training. She got hurt last year at Punchestown and the vets have cleared her to go back in to training – she’s nine. We keep talking about it but I am of two minds. We’ll keep her on the go and see what happens. If a few fell away from the Mares’ Hurdle we might consider it but at the moment I am leaning towards retiring her.
"She is very good for us, is a well-bred National Hunt Mare and would make an excellent broodmare. I think we’d make a decision in the next four to six weeks."
Min - on course for possible Yorkhill clash:Min is 7-4, behind 5-4 Yorkhill, for the Dublin Steeplechase next week (PA)
"That would be interesting if Min takes on Yorkhill - that would be a good race. He’s fine. At Leopardstown at Christmas he was buzzed up by the Gigginstown horse [Tell Us More] and was too free – he jumped well but I don’t think that was his true running. He has only run over fences four times so I hope he learnt something. We will run [at the Dublin Racing Festival] Djakadam, Benie Des Dieux, Faugheen, possibly Getabird, Sharjah and a few novice chasers."
Getabird and Sharjah - next week will decide Festival targets:Getabird is a best-priced 100-30 for the Supreme Novices but could run in the Ballymore (PA)
"Getabird was very good the last day, and he surprised everybody with his turn of foot He is a bit hard to keep right and doesn’t show as much at home as others do. So that performance on that ground was really impressive.
"I hope Sharjah who, was bang there in the Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle, will come out and do what he was going to do that day this weekend. That would be nice to give us some options.
"I still think that Getabird on better ground is better over a longer trip. That would be some race wouldn’t it? Samcro, Next Destination and Getabird in the Ballymore? He has shown enough gears to get the two miles in the Supreme and I have always felt you need to be a two and a half mile horse in the Supreme. Sharjah has got to come out and do it first. My NAP for the Cheltenham Festival would be Getabird - he would be our best chance at this stage. A week from now it could be Faugheen or Min though and it would be happy days."
Djakadam - a lot to prove:Djakadam has not won since he beat Outlander in December 2016 (PA)
"Djakadam has a lot of questions to answer. His first-time run looked good because he looked big to me and Willie said he was not as forward as in previous years. The Irish Gold Cup is important for him next week – he has to show some sparkle to have any chance of coming over here and being competitive. I think we are writing off that race in that it came too soon."
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