Davy Russell is one of the most experienced National Hunt jockeys. He has ridden the winners of many top races, including the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup
Davy Russell will return to the saddle “in a fortnight or so” after spending 11 months on the sidelines with injuries to his neck and back.
The 42-year-old suffered fractured and dislocated vertebrae when Doctor Duffy crashed out at the first fence of the Munster National at Limerick last October.
Russell was forced to miss the bulk of the latest National Hunt season – including the spring festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown – and also sat out last month’s Galway Festival.
In the months after the fall, Russell faced a gruelling recovery, having bolts drilled into his head and weights hung from his head to realign his spine.
But now the jockey, who won the Grand National twice aboard Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019, plus the 2014 Gold Cup with Lord Windermere, has reported his comeback to be imminent.
“I’ve got a couple of things to sort out, but I’m nearly ready to rock and roll, and I hope to be back in a fortnight or so,” said Russell.
“I’ve been in the gym and have been doing lots of fitness work, but there is a big difference between being fit and being race-fit.
“I felt in the spring that I wouldn’t be able to do my rides justice at Cheltenham and Aintree, and the recovery process has been helped by not having to force it.
“I’ve taken my time but everything has gone well.”
It was feared his latest injury would force Ireland’s three-time champion jockey into retirement.
But Russell, whose trainer ally Gordon Elliott is due to return from suspension next month – Tiger Roll’s trainer was banned for six months, with six months suspended, after a photograph of him astride a dead horse was published on social media – was determined to ride again.
Action Images via Reuters)
“However long it might be, I never want to go out injured,” he added. “However long it might be, it’s important to go out on your own terms.”
Tiger Roll’s 2019 Aintree heroics in partnership with Russell was the first time a horse had won back-to-back renewals since Red Rum in the 1970s.
Over the years, the vastly experienced member of the weighing room has been Ireland’s champion jockey on three occasions.
Other top horses he has ridden include Solwhit, the 2013 World Hurdle winner and 2006 Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition.
The latter won at the Cheltenham Festival under Conor O’Dwyer – and Russell teamed up with the staying chaser for most of his runs after a 658-day injury break.
Before being sidelined last autumn, he was in the saddle when Envoi Allen stretched his unbeaten record to nine races in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Russell was due to keep the partnership intact over fences, a new discipline Henry de Bromhead’s charge excelled at until his shock fall at Cheltenham 2021.