Nicky Richards believes it is a shot in the arm for northern jumps racing that leading owner Rich Ricci has sent him a horse to train this season.
Ricci and his wife Susannah have the vast majority of their formidable string in training with Willie Mullins, with whom they have enjoyed a staggering level of success for the last decade, thanks to likes of Annie Power, Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour.
The ebullient American owner broke new ground earlier this year when Palixandre, trained by Nicky Henderson, became the first British-trained horse to carry his familiar pink and green colours when finishing fifth in a Southwell bumper in May.
And his silks are set to be seen in action on the northern circuit in the near future, with Penrith-based Richards looking forward to the imminent racecourse debut of the Ricci-owned Wilhelm Vonvenster, who holds entries in bumpers at Ayr on Wednesday and Newcastle on Friday.
Richards said: “I think it’s great for northern racing – it’s testament to all the northern trainers – and to see his colours racing up the north will be great and will hopefully help get the flag flying a bit.”
The Greystoke handler revealed the new alliance came about during one of his trips to Ireland.
The Richards-trained veteran Simply Ned was touched off by the Ricci-owned Min at Leopardstown last Christmas, only for the result to be later in in the stewards’ room.
Min emphatically reversed the form at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
Richards added: “I’ve met Mr Ricci a couple of times on our trips to Ireland. Like all these things, you socialise in the bar afterwards, say ‘well done’ or ‘bad luck’ or what have you, and one day he said he’d like to have a horse in the north of England.
“I bought him (Wilhelm Vonvenster) as a store horse and he’s come through the system.
“I might run him this week and I hope he’s lucky for the owners.”