Cheltenham Festival: Rich pickings for Rich Ricci in Champion Bumper
Rich Ricci is slightly favouring the chances of Pylonthepressure as he prepares to unleash a powerful team of four runners in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
Ricci counts ante-post favourite Bordini in his team for the Grade One heat but is leaning towards Pylonthepressure as his leading hope following wins at Thurles and Naas this term.
Bordini also has two wins to his credit this term, while Au Quart De Tour, who, like the other pair, is trained by Willie Mullins, won his sole bumper start at Fairyhouse in January.
Ricci said: "It's really hard (to split them). People ask, 'What is the best horse?', but the reason we're running so many is because it's hard to tell who's who.
"I think our best chances have to be Pylonthepressure, who really seems to be coming into form, and Bordini, who I think has the best form.
"I think Au Quart De Tour has a good chance as well, but at the moment I would say it's slightly in the favour of Pylonthepressure."
Ricci also has the Mullins-trained Punchestown victor Livelaughlove racing in his pink and green silks.
Mullins rates Bordini as the stable's best chance, but admitted Pylonthepressure's eight-and-a-half-length Naas win makes him another outstanding candidate in a race in which he also fields the Graham Wylie-owned pair of Bellshill and Up For Review as well as Gigginstown House Stud runner Stone Hard.
"To me, Bordini has it all and has put in the easiest performance," the County Carlow handler told www.wpmullins.com.
"Au Quart De Tour has been very good and Stone Hard has been very good.
"Pylonthepressure is the one who has taken us by surprise. I was going to run Up For Review at Naas and Pylonthepressure at Leopardstown but Pylonthepressure did an amazing piece of work and I switched them.
"That performance at Naas was extraordinary - he ran away from a decent field."
Though Mullins appears to hold all the aces in the two-mile heat, the Irish raiding party have another strong hope in Supasundae.
Now with Henry de Bromhead, Supasundae was a winner at Wetherby for Tim Fitzgerald last March before transferring to the care of Andrew Balding to win a Listed heat at Ascot in December.
Subsequently snapped up by Ann and Alan Potts, Supasundae is a notable ride for jockey Johnny Burke, who said: "It's my first Festival and Supasundae would have to be my most high-profile ride.
"He's been very impressive and looks a nice sort."
Robert Stephens' Modus will be having a second crack at the race having finished eighth behind Silver Concorde last year.
He subsequently turned in a disappointing effort at Aintree and has been off the track since that run last April as connections wanted him to remain eligible for this event again.
Stephens said: "We took him to Lingfield for his last serious piece of work and I was very pleased with him.
"He's much more settled in everything he does now and I hope going there this year for his first run will suit him."
Western Way is another who is returning from a long lay-off, with Don Cantillon's charge racing for the first time since notching a 27-length win at Huntingdon back in September 2013.
The trainer said: "He hasn't run for a long time because he's had a few niggly problems, but we couldn't run him in another race if we wanted to run him in this.
"He's as good as gold now and if he's in the first 10 we'll be cracking open the champagne.
"Denis O'Regan will ride him. He was very impressed with him when he won.
"The time before that he was second to Cole Harden and every time I see Warren (Greatrex, trainer) he always asks me how he's getting on because he was flying home.
"It's incredibly exciting."