Ricci: ‘One of those freak things’
Rich Ricci says he'll never know how Vautour came to lose his life, as the top jumps owner spoke of how he'd found perspective over the accident that claimed the life of his star steeplechase on Sunday.
Ricci (right): Reflected upon death of Vautour
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2014 and the JLT Novices' Chase 12 months later before running out a dominant winner of the Ryanair Chase on his return to Prestbury Park last March.
Vautour won 10 of his 16 starts overall, including five Grade Ones, and was last seen finishing second at the Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown in April.
Speaking on At The Races on Monday evening, Ricci reflected upon the death of the horse.
"You sit here and think 'God, all those races, the fall at Aintree, all the galloping, all that training and, you know, he dies in a field with nothing going on'. It was one of those freak things. We don't know what happened," he said.
"We kept him outside this year. He's a big stuffy, gross type of a horse. We took a decision to keep him more outside this year and he'd been thriving. They went down to give him his food last night and found him lying on the ground. We don't know what happened. Did he give it a bang? We don't know.
"It was Sunday afternoon, I'm watching At The Races at Naas and Cork, and Willie doesn't ring me on Sunday unless it's one of two things – either he's seen something at Auteuil that he wants me to buy or it's bad news on a horse.
"I let it ring three times. I just didn't have the best feeling about it. And he said 'It's very bad, it's very straightforward' and when you have news like that you start to reel a bit and and get your head around it."
Ricci said, however, that an interview with paralysed former jockey Robbie McNamara had immediately allowed him to see things in a different way.
"Serendipitously I just looked up and saw Gary O'Brien interviewing Robbie McNamara on At The Races who was so elegant and articulate in describing what he'd been through and the journey Freddy Tylicki faces," he said.
"I immediately was okay. It's sad to lose a horse, but in the context of that and what's happened to JT [McNamara] and other people in the game, it's okay. It's not great, it's sad, but if you put it in that context, God, it's nothing."
Ricci admitted to a sense of regret that Vautour would never now win the Gold Cup that had seemed his destiny and spoke again about the circumstances in March that saw Vautour parachuted into the Ryanair Chase line-up, the owner having stated only days earlier that he would either run in the Gold Cup or miss the Cheltenham Festival.
"I asked Willie early in the summer away from the heat of the action 'We never talked about even running in that race' and Willie, in his own way, said 'We never didn't talk about running in it'," said Ricci.
"We won't those mistakes again – I think we were both communicating with the media, instead with each other.
"I don't know if you remember my interview but I said after the race that I had mixed feelings about the victory and I still do. I kind of wished he'd run in the Gold Cup and I still do. But, sure, we'll never know. Two and a half miles isn't three miles two.
"It wasn't the best experience for punters, which we've apologised for. All we can do is try and learn from it and do the right thing by everyone in the future. We won't make that same mistake again – and unfortunately we won't be able to have that conversation again.
"The thing that I'll remember is that, of course I'll remember those great days, but what's sad for the sport is that we never really got to the bottom of him. We never really saw him tap into that potential I thought he had."
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