Vautour "could be something special"
Vautour, 8/1 joint-favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, could take in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown next weekend.
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The five-year-old is unbeaten after two starts for Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins, but was made to work hard by Western Boy when long odds-on at Punchestown in early January.
Owner Rich Ricci is anticipating considerable improvement from his youngster.
"I thought Vautour looked very big (at Punchestown). I think he'll come on for that run," Ricci told At The Races.
"He's only run twice and it would be nice to get another run into him. He's a possibility for the Deloitte, where I'd like to see him go.
"I have a lot of confidence in him. I think he could be something special."
Another Ricci-owned novice hurdler with Festival aspirations is Faugheen, who is three from three over timber this season.
The Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and the longer Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle appear his likely Festival options, with Ricci hinting the former could be the preferred choice.
He said: "He's a horse we like a lot, he's a horse that's hard to keep straight. We struggled with that last year, but we've been very lucky this year and Willie has done a brilliant job.
"He certainly has toe, so I think two miles, two and a half miles will be good.
"He can get the three miles as he's shown (but) he runs a bit free, that may be a concern.
"If we can keep him right, I think he's got a great chance wherever he runs."
Keen to split his aces, Faugheen's possible Neptune participation could allow Ricci's Clondaw Court to be his main candidate for the Albert Bartlett.
He was unimpressive at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival, but won with his head in his chest at Thurles last month.
"He's another one that's been hard to keep right. He needed that run at Christmas, he was very impressive the last day," said Ricci.
"He's only had two runs and it would be nice to get another run into him. He's seven, so he is getting on.
"He's a horse I'm looking forward to seeing over fences, but something like the Bartlett would suit him."
The odd one out among Ricci's wealth of talent in the division could be Renneti, who fell when likely to score at Limerick in December.
The owner said: "I like Renneti. He ran a cracker in the Royal Bond and then fell when he was home and hosed over Christmas.
"I don't know if he'll be one for the (Cheltenham) team. I have a lot of confidence in him and he's entered in a couple of races coming up.
"We're very fortunate to have quite a few novice hurdlers, so we'll have to see if he makes the team or not, but there are plenty of races at places like Fairyhouse, Aintree and Punchestown."