PA Sport Staff
Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider Davy Russell announced his immediate retirement from the saddle following victory at Thurles.
The veteran jump jockey had taken the ride aboard Gordon Elliott’s Liberty Dance, the 6-5 favourite in the Listed Billy Harney Memorial Irish EBF Mares Novice Hurdle.
The horse was a comfortable winner and on returning the the paddock Russell confirmed the ride was to be his last.
In 2014 Russell lifted the most coveted trophy in National Hunt racing when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard 20-1 shot Lord Windermere for trainer Jim Culloty.
More recently Russell has been associated with the Elliott-trained Tiger Roll, the dual National hero who captured the famous race in both 2018 and 2019 with the jockey on board both times.
Russell, 43, was seriously hurt in 2020 when falling in the Munster National at Limerick, with the resulting serious neck injury including fractured and dislocated vertebrae that required surgery and a long period of recovery.
After missing the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, Russell returned to the saddle last September following an 11-month absence.
“It is a special time and it is great to do it here, as Thurles is the centre of our sport and it’s great to do it here,” he said.
“Racing was called off for so long and I had it in my mind to retire when I had my next winner.
“When I broke my neck I got a bit of a shock. People thought I was going to retire – if the injury stopped me fine, but I was happy to do it on my own terms.
“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 spoke to Gordon however long ago about retirement and he backed me the whole way. I’m delighted the winner was for Tim (O’Driscoll) who is a big part of the yard.”
He went on: “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.”
He added: “I dreamed about it (a career as a successful jockey), but never thought my dreams would come to fruition.
“I’ll never forget my first winner or forget my last, but it is hard to get away from Tiger Roll.”
Reflecting further in a statement issued on his behalf, Russell said: “There must also be a special mention for Gigginstown – Michael, Anita, Eddie and Wendy (O’Leary).
“You gave me the opportunity and trusted in me, taking me to places and to days I could only ever have dreamed about. You took me to the next level. You let me ride a remarkable little warrior called Tiger Roll. The horse of my lifetime.
“As for Gordon Elliott, well, what can I say. We rode together as amateurs, and I’ve been lucky enough to watch you become the trainer you are today. For the last few years, you have made me part of your team and have always done everything to help me asking for nothing in return.
“The truth is there are just so many people to thank and you know who you are. To all the stable staff around the land that do all the hard work, to my weighing-room colleagues, both professional and amateur, past and present… I salute you all. To the physios, doctors and surgeons, thank you for patching me up. To my sponsors Citipost, Star Sports and the Irish Daily Star, thank you for believing in me.
“Finally, to my wife Edelle and my kids Jaimee, Lily, Finn, Liam and Tess. You are the reason I can hang up my riding boots today. You have taught me what it is to live, and I cannot wait to spend more time with you all at home in Youghal. Of course, I’m sad to be giving up something I’ve been lucky enough to have called a job for so long, but the truth is I’ve never actually worked a day in my life.”