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Former investment banker Rich Ricci is perhaps the closest tie between America and the world-famous Cheltenham Festival these days.
The American businessman turned powerful racehorse owner has a team of uber-talented jumps horses that are the envy of his peers. Ricci has teamed up with arguably the sport's greatest trainer in Willie Mullins and together they have formed an all-conquering alliance. The Cheltenham Festival is their mecca each spring, the most high profile playground for jumps racing. Ricci certainly knows a thing or two about backing winners, if you want to know how to bet on horses - click here for best horse racing betting options.
Ricci has proved himself in the business world over a long career and his racing trajectory is constantly on the up. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of his would-be contenders for Cheltenham 2017.
A year ago, Min was the most talked-about horse in the run up to Cheltenham as he carried hopes of winning the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle for the third straight time for the team of Ricci, Mullins and the most successful Cheltenham jockey of all time, Ruby Walsh. It didn't go to plan as he finished second to Nicky Henderson's Altior. Now jumping fences, Min has made a bright start to the next phase in his career. A potentially explosive rematch with Altior in the Racing Post Arkle is on the cards and it ought to be a race to savour.
Dubbed the supersub for the injured Faugheen, Annie Power firmly shattered suggestions that she would be anyone's second fiddle as she romped to Champion Hurdle glory. The first mare since the great Dawn Run in 1984 to win the two-mile Championship contest, it will take a brave performance to dethrone Annie in 2017. So good was her win a year ago that it would be easy to see her winning even if were she not getting a mares' allowance to tackle the boys. A stunning race mare, Annie Power is one to keep onside for Cheltenham in March as she seems sure to have a great chance of another victory. Once you know how to bet on horse races, especially on Cheltenham Festival, Annie Power starts looking to be the one to give you a winner.
Simply put, Douvan deserves the tag of being 'the best jumps horse in training' right now. Still unbeaten; no rival has managed to lay a hoof on this powerful mover so far. He has two wins from two at the Cheltenham Festival already and, come the spring, he looks destined to bid for glory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Ricci has never before landed the two-mile Championship contest, but it requires a leap of faith to see anything beating a fit and ready Douvan come March 15.
Twice a bridesmaid in Cheltenham's ultimate showpiece, the Gold Cup, Djakadam will have his doubters now. He has finished second to both Coneygree and Don Cossack in the Blue Ribband but will be just eight when March rolls around once more. He's been to the ball a few times now but no doubting Djakadam retains plenty of potential for this race. With the ill-timed passing of Vautour, he seems destined to be the key Ricci/Mullins contender again as they each look to land their first Gold Cup win.