Rich Ricci (right): has had horses with Willie Mullins since 2007
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
By David Jennings 8:55AM 30 SEP 2016
RICH RICCI is sticking by champion trainer Willie Mullins.
The leading owner has said the facilities at Mullins’ Closutton yard are unrecognisable from ten years ago when he first sent horses there and expressed his surprise that the champion trainer’s rates had not risen before now.
Ricci was speaking the day after the shock news that Gigginstown House Stud had removed 60 horses from Mullins after a disagreement over training fees, which are understood to have risen to €385 a week from €350.
Like Gigginstown, Ricci has around 60 in training with Mullins, but unlike Michael O’Leary’s operation he has no intention of moving his squad anywhere else.
Ricci said: “I first sent horses to Willie in 2007, almost ten years ago now, and the facilities he has now compared to then are unrecognisable.
“The place has changed completely from the time I first visited. There were no proper gallops and a lot of the horses’ work was done on the road back then. Willie has pumped a hell of a lot of his own money into the place and, to be perfectly honest, I’m surprised it’s taken so long for him to put up his fees.
“The facilities he has at the moment are second to none and his results speak for themselves. I have no problem with him putting up his training fees.”
Ricci added: “Similar to Gigginstown, I have around 60 horses with Willie, and what’s happened is a huge blow to him, but I’ve no intention of moving away from Willie, that’s for sure.
“We have developed a great friendship over the years and I’ve nothing but admiration for what he has done.”
No fences for Faugheen
Ricci also dismissed any notion that Faugheen will head over fences – but he did not rule out stepping the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner up in trip.
“There’s no way Faugheen will be heading over fences, not a hope, he’ll be staying over hurdles,” said Ricci.
“We obviously have Annie [Power] as well and it will be a case of which of them is more forward will be coming out first. Although fences are not on the agenda for Faugheen, he does have the option of going up in trip. He’s already won over three miles as a novice so we know he stays.”
Ricci added: “This is the best and the worst time of year. There are high expectations for everything but sheer frustration as you wait for each one to appear out again.
“I suppose it’s a bit like a football manager waiting to see how their new signing will get on and wondering if they have unearthed the next Messi. That’s exactly the way I feel. I cannot wait to get the newbies out.”