Bookies running scared of Rich Ricci

Banker Rich Ricci is the owner bookmakers fear could help empty their coffers during the Cheltenham Festival.
Bookies running scared of Rich Ricci

The former Barclays man, turned leading owner, holds four aces in tomorrow’s opening card with Min, Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag.

Ladbrokes believes the foursome, representing Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins, will form the most popular accumulator bet of the week.

Min is 2-1 market leader to kick start punters’ investment by taking the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Douvan is red hot at around 2-5 for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy.

All eyes will then be on Annie Power, who is a warm order at 2-1 for the Stan James Champion Hurdle as she tries to make amends for her last flight fall in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle which destroyed the four-timer 12 months ago.

Should she redeem herself then it will be up to Vroum Vroum Mag, who is around even money, to take the latter prize and complete the four-timer.

“Ricci will become the most popular banker in history if he lands a record-breaking bonus for punters on the opening day,” said Ladbrokes’ David Williams.

“Last year we were staring at a £50m (€64.5m) loss on day one before Annie Power’s unbelievable fall at the last hurdle. It was the most expensive fall in Festival history.

“This year it could be every bit as bad. If we find ourselves 3-0 down heading into Vroum Vroum Mag’s race the bookies will be white as ghosts.

“If Ricci is grinning, we’re sure to be suffering.”

Those thoughts are echoed by Coral, which is offering evens Mullins has three or more winners tomorrow.

“Bookmakers have been facing this opening day salvo from Willie Mullins all winter, and even without Faugheen and Arctic Fire, the Irish champion can send out four hot favourites on Tuesday, with the quartet likely to feature in vast numbers of accumulators,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

“Twelve months ago we were spared when Annie Power fell at the last, and it’s quite remarkable that her trainer is back with four strong chances in the same four championship contests, kicking off the biggest betting week of the year in style.”

The layers are also fearful of Friday, the last of the four days in which the public eye will be on Victoria Pendleton as much as on the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The dual Olympic champion cyclist rides Pacha Du Polder in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase.

“Over £250m (€322.7m) will be wagered across the UK over the four-day Festival, and while Tuesday is all about Willie Mullins, Friday is the biggest day of the week by far with up to £100m (€121m)bet on that day alone,” said Stevens.

“This year the feature Gold Cup will share the limelight with Victoria Pendleton, with her Foxhunter mount Pacha Du Polder likely to be one of the best backed horses of the Festival.”

Ladbrokes are also gearing up for a frantic Friday.

“Pendleton’s presence could mean a record-breaking final day,” said Williams.

“The Gold Cup is a vintage renewal and sure to be the biggest betting race of the week but with Pendleton lining up barely half an hour later, it could deliver the most incredible hour we’ve known at Cheltenham.”

Ladbrokes have Pacha Du Polder at 16-1 while Coral go a more cautious 12-1.

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