Cork jockey Davy Russell on his big decision to return to the saddle at 42

“When I was injured and it looked like it might be hard for me to come back, there was a hole there I wasn’t sure how I was going to fill." 
Cork jockey Davy Russell on his big decision to return to the saddle at 42

Jockey Davy Russell after Vina Ardanza came out best in a photo finish at Thurles. Picture: Healy Racing

YOUGHAL’S Davy Russell was back in the big time with a brilliant victory aboard Run Wild Fred in the prestigious Troytown Chase at Navan last weekend.

Following his very tough 11-month lay-off with a serious neck injury, this victory was widely applauded by racing fans across the country and beyond.

Russell is riding as good as ever and his association with Gordon Elliot will provide plenty of high profile rides this season. The 42-year-old has already ridden 20 winners since returning and was described recently by former champion trainer Noel Meade as the best jump jockey in the country right now.

High praise indeed.

Russell has had to battle back to riding winners when at times the road to recovery was met with a number of setbacks as he recovered from a neck injury sustained in a fall at last year’s Munster National at Limerick.

Russell steered the 4/1 favourite Run Wild Fred to glory in Sunday’s feature at Navan, leading home Farclas in a Gordon Elliott one-two, and was in reflective mood after the race.

“I do appreciate it more after being out. The kids are involved now and they’re very enthusiastic,” Russell said.

“When I was injured and it looked like it might be hard for me to come back, there was a hole there I wasn’t sure how I was going to fill. 

"I was pushing to get back if my body was going to allow me and it wasn’t until about seven days before I renewed my licence that I felt I was ready to come back and that hole was going to be filled by being a jockey again. 

Jockey Davy Russell after Run Wild Fred won earlier this week. Picture: Healy Racing
Jockey Davy Russell after Run Wild Fred won earlier this week. Picture: Healy Racing

There is terrific Grade 1 action at Fairyhouse on Sunday which promises to be the best day’s racing of the National Hunt season so far.

The first of the Grade 1s is the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at 1.05pm which boasts a rich history of producing future champions. Moscow Flyer, Hardy Eustace, and Hurricane Fly are just three of the previous winners to have gone on to become household names.

Sunday’s renewal has attracted a nine-strong entry which includes six horses that have yet to taste defeat over hurdles.

Gavin Cromwell’s My Mate Mozzie looks to have the strongest form coming into Sunday’s contest having already run out an impressive winner of a Grade 3 event at Navan earlier this month.

Colm Murphy’s Impervious is also a Grade 3 winner over hurdles and has already notched up three successes over flights, but this two-mile trip might prove too sharp against this level of opposition.

The Drinmore Novice Chase is next up at 1.35pm. This race was won last season by the mighty Envoi Allen when still in the care of Gordon Elliott.

The master of Cullentra has a strong record in this race having won it in five of the last eight years and has two possible this time around with Fury Road and Grand Paradis.

Elliot’s horses are flying right now and his runners deserve plenty of respect at this meeting.

POPULAR

Arguably the most popular team in jump racing right now are the defending champion hurdler Honeysuckle and her brilliant partner Rachael Blackmore who line up for the third year in a row in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at 2.40pm.

Unbeaten in all starts, Honeysuckle will be out to equal the great Limestone Lad, Solerina, and Apple’s Jade in winning this prestigious contest for a third time.

She won’t have things all her own way this time with the likes of four-time Grade 1 winner and reigning Punchestown Champion Stayers’ Hurdle winner Klassical Dream in opposition.

This will be Honeysuckle’s first time back at 2m4f since landing this contest last year having reinvented herself in the interim as the best two-mile hurdler in the game.

While Blackmore was taking the Betfair Chase aboard A Plus Tard at Haydock, last season’s Ballymore Novices Hurdle winner Bob Olinger made his seasonal debut in winning a Beginners Chase for trainer Henry De Bromhead and Doneraile jockey Darragh O’Keeffe.

Picture: Healy Racing
Picture: Healy Racing

This is a serious racehorse and some of the shrewdest people in the game have been waxing lyrical about the six-year-old son of Sholokhov. Bob Olinger’s jumping was good, but having moved past early leader Bacardys before the home straight, nodded on landing at the third last fence and was awkward at the last.

De Bromhead was at Haydock overseeing the victory of A Plus Tard in the Betfair under Blackmore and afterwards rising star Darragh O’Keeffe said: “It was some experience. He jumped brilliant, travelled great and it’s as good a feeling as I’ve ever got on the racetrack.

It was unreal. He has a serious engine and it was just a privilege to get the ride on him. 

"If you want to be critical of him I suppose you could say that but it's his first run over fences and these take plenty of jumping but overall I thought his jumping was very good and he'll come on plenty from today as well. 

"He has the scope and he won a point-to-point for Pat Doyle. Today was just about getting around, we know he has the engine.”

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