I watched last season’s Champion Chase on the big screen that overlooks the Parade Ring at Cheltenham and the sound that accompanied the realisation by 57,000 people that Douvan was losing ground three from home, is one that I can still hear now. It was something like a collective sharp intake of breath, with a brief pause, followed by a lengthy eerily dull groan. It can be best compared to the noise of a patient undergoing a particularly unpleasant medical examination.
There were many good reasons why punters backed the 2/9 Festival banker, not least of which were the owner’s comments before the race. Although caveating his remarks with the usual – He’s got to get round and anything can happen, the appropriately named retired banker Rich Ricci told Sky Sports “Douvan certainly has to be the one to look forward to” and assuring us “He is going there in great form”
Douvan finished 7th out of 10 and the post race analysis was that he had been lame. Speaking on Racing UK’s Luck On Sunday, Ricci’s line now is “Something was clearly bothering Douvan for most of last year and he wasn’t quite himself” and “No-one was entirely happy with him the whole time despite him putting in some pretty good performances”. This would appear pretty diametrically opposed to the presumably informed views he was expressing going into the race. I suppose the questions have to be on what basis the original assessment was made, why is it so different now and why has he now gone public to contradict what was previously said?
I don’t intend to turn this post into a let’s bash Rich Ricci rant- There are many others who have done that, whether focusing on him being one third of the triumvirate that monopolise the ownership of NH horses in Ireland or his role in the banking crisis. However, it is probably fair to say he was a bit lucky to leave his post at Barclays with an £18 million bonus and a year’s salary worth £700,000. Such luck didn’t extend to the punter who reportedly placed £500,000 on a Douvan win in the Champion Chase.