Q and A with Youghal jockey Davy Russell: My dream was to hurl for Cork

Q and A with Youghal jockey Davy Russell: My dream was to hurl for Cork

Davy Russell has been involved for a number of years with the Hurling For Cancer Research annual fundraising match. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

IN the first of a new series from Horse Racing Ireland, Cork jockey Davy Russell gives BARBARA WHITE an insight into his career in the saddle, love of hurling and favourite music and movies.

What was your childhood ambition?: To play hurling for Cork.

Growing up, who was your sporting hero?: Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Denis Walsh.

Davy Russell with trainer Jim Bolger before the sixth annual Hurling for Cancer Research game. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Davy Russell with trainer Jim Bolger before the sixth annual Hurling for Cancer Research game. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

What or where is your happy place?: Youghal.

What sparked your love of racing?: My dad was an avid fan.

What horse put you on the map?: There are two Mansony and Solwhit. Trained by Arthur Moore in Kildare, Mansony and I won two Grade 1 Chases in 2007, The Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival, and we followed up with another at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.

Solwhit was a hurdling specialist, trained in Limerick by Charles Byrnes. We had many great days together including winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in 2010.

Who is your favourite horse?: Tiger Roll every day.

What was it like to ride in your first race?: Things happened extremely quickly — quicker than I could have ever imagined.

How long does it take to learn race-riding tactics?: A lifetime...

Describe the feeling of riding your first winner?: It is very hard to describe the feeling. My first winner was a surprise so there was plenty of shock and excitement.

What is your most memorable racing moment?: All the firsts!

My first winner — Right’N’Royal at Gowran Park on May 20, 1999.

My first time being crowned champion jockey for the 2011/12 season.

My first Cheltenham Gold Cup on Lord Windermere in 2014.

My first Aintree Grand National on Tiger Roll in 2018.

My first Cheltenham Festival winner on Native Jack in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase in 2006.

What is your favourite racecourse in Ireland?: Punchestown. It is probably the place you come across the best horses from the depths of winter to their festival.

If you weren’t a jockey what would you be?: An actor.

If you could ride one horse, what would it be?: Istabraq.

How do you cope with pressure?: I try and tick every box before any big festival or big race and be well prepared.

What mental preparation do you do for the big days?: As above, I go through the different scenarios in my head to prepare as best I can.

How do you stay motivated?: It’s hard to explain, I don’t feel I need to motivate myself; I just love what I do so it comes naturally.

How do you deal with dips in form?: I try and go back to basics, ‘riding a horse around a field’ — It is quite simple when you think about it!

Outside of racing, what is your favourite sporting moment?: I love All-Ireland hurling final day and Sonia O’Sullivan winning her gold medal in the 5000 metres at the 1995 World Championships was brilliant.

Can you give us a Netflix/film recommendation?: With four children under five, Frozen 2 and Trolls is on repeat in our house at the moment — brilliant scriptwriting!

What is your guilty pleasure?: Ferrero Rocher ice cream.

Desert island discs — name your favourite three songs?: Ocean Colour Scene, The Day We Caught The Train James, Sit Down The Waterboys, How Long Will I Love You… the first dance at my wedding!.

What person do you admire the most and why?: I think Aidan O’Brien is very special, for a long period of time he is consistently good.

Favourite dinner?: Bacon and Cabbage.

Where is your favourite place to go on holidays?: I’m not a big holiday person but I love heading away anywhere with my family.

What ambitions do you still have?: Trying to ride as many winners as I can and staying in the top half of the Championship.

What is the hidden gem of Cork?: St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal.

When you think of your home what immediately springs to mind?: My family and the sea.

How are you occupying your time during the Covid-19 restrictions?: Keeping very busy with jobs around the farm and with my children.

What’s your one piece of advice for everyone during these worrying times?: Stay active and try and have some normality.

If you were to go back to when you were 20 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?: Don’t panic!

Favourite saying/quote?: ‘Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.’

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