DAVY RUSSELL brought the curtain down on his magnificent career with a winning ride on Liberty Dance at Thurles last Sunday.
The proud Youghal man will go down as one of the greatest riders of all time and has a glittering list of victories including two Aintree Grand Nationals aboard Tiger Roll and a never-to-be-forgotten Gold Cup victory with Lord Windemere. Other notable achievements included 22 Cheltenham Festival winners, while his dramatic victory aboard Rebel Fitz in the Galway Hurdle for Kanturk trainer Michael Winters was hugely popular on Leeside.
The three-time Irish Champion jockey rode his first point-to-point winner in 1999 and was a real big race jockey at all the major festivals enjoying a host of Grade One successes. His association with Gordon Elliot in later years delivered so many great days while the highs of the Gigginstown job ensured plenty of winners aboard top quality horses.
Russell was seriously injured in 2020 when falling in the Munster National at Limerick. He sustained a serious neck injury including fractured and dislocated vertebrae that required surgery and a long period of rehabilitation.
There were great scenes following the announcement at Thurles and the hugely popular Russell said: “When I broke my neck I got a bit of a shock. People thought I was going to retire but if the injury stopped me fine, but I was happy to do it on my own terms. I’ll never forget my first winner or will never forget my last but it is hard to get away from Tiger Roll.“It is testament to my family who never questioned my decisions, albeit how strange at the time they seemed. But I was of the opinion I needed something to push me through the rehabilitation and the best incentive was getting back to ride.
“I didn’t decide until the day I was declared to ride a horse again that I was going to come back because it was hard work. The flex in my neck wasn’t working properly at the time, but I’m good now. I have aches and pains but I’m not going to blame that, it is just time.
“I have five children and plenty of work to do. I’d love the romance of training but to start back at zero at 43 years of age would be difficult.
“It would depend on if the kids wanted to ride in point-to-points or whatever in 10 years' time that I might train a few point-to-pointers or whatever.“I’m at the very top now and to go back to zero (training) would be tough. I dreamed about a career as a successful jockey but never thought my dreams would come to fruition.”
With one east Cork jockey retiring the focus is very much on another with Paul Townend riding a host of winners for Willie Mullins in recent weeks including the Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs.
This brilliant Chaser was cut to
7-4 favourite (from 5-2) for the 2023 Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup after producing a performance of real quality for trainer Mullins in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase this week.
Townend managed to get Galopin Des Champs, who raced keenly in his first season as a chaser, settled behind the front-running Lifetime Ambition and jumping economically over the 2m4f trip.
Mullins said: “When Paul wanted a big jump he gave it to him, and when he wanted a few quick ones he did that too. There were a lot of positives to take out of that performance, and to go away from a four-time Grade 1 winner over that trip shows that he can play in the senior ranks.
“The plan was to get him to settle, and we were happy to drop him in behind the front-runner. He was a bit free last year, but he has relaxed great this year — it worked out nicely. He’s a Gold Cup horse — that’s where he is going. I am most pleased about the way he settled, the way he jumped, and the way he skipped away from a proven Grade 1 winner."
Townend said: “I said to Willie going out that I was going to keep it as simple as I could. I thought it would be great if Lifetime Ambition went on. My fella is a good horse, very professional. It’s brilliant that they were able to reschedule the race. The ground was beautiful and it was brilliant to get him back on the track.”