In a time when the Cheltenham Festival seems to have a 12-month build-up, leading owner Rich Ricci believes the ‘obsession’ with the four-day racing feast isn’t a bad thing.
Ricci has enjoyed incredible success at the Cheltenham Festival over the last decade, with the likes of Annie Power and Faugheen winning the Champion Hurdle as well as a string of other successes including Min, Vautour and Douvan.
Critics have suggested that more should be done to promote other major meetings in the National Hunt calendar, with the Cheltenham Festival suggested as one reason for disappointing fields in Grade One races in recent years.
But Ricci, who owns 2023 Festival favourites Lossiemouth and Allegorie De Vassy, thinks that the popularity of the four-day meeting in Gloucestershire should be heralded, and admits he is still searching for the horse to bring him an elusive Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“We can argue that it’s good for the sport or its not good for the sport, but the obsession from the broader population is extraordinary,” Ricci told Racing Debate.
“From the end of the Cheltenham Festival, they start talking about the next Cheltenham Festival.
“For me, the journey to get there is important. You want to be winning Grade Ones and picking up prize money.
“But Cheltenham is what our sport is all about, rightly or wrongly – I think people who say Cheltenham isn’t everything, I don’t get it!
“It certainly is for the public and for us in the game. People talk about races they want to win, they mention the King George or another race but it’s all about a Cheltenham victory really.
“I still want to win the Gold Cup and probably won’t quit until I’ve won it.”
The Jockey Club announced this weekend that Cheltenham Gold Cup day has already sold out, with the other three days looking set to go likewise in the coming weeks.
And that atmosphere created at Prestbury Park is what Ricci thinks is crucial for the Festival remaining a crucial fixture in the sporting calendar.
“It’s the only time when those associated to a horse get to feel like football players, whether it’s an owner, trainer or jockey,” Ricci added.
“Walking into that enclosure, with that applause, it’s an electric atmosphere and Cheltenham does it very well.”