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Horse Racing profile: Davy Russell

Davy Russell is assured of his place in Grand National folklore having been the man on Tiger Roll's back as they secured successive wins in the great race in 2018 and 2019.

That was the first time since the mighty Red Rum in 1974 that any horse had managed to retain the Grand National crown and Russell's beaming smile lit up the Merseyside layout when the Tiger lived up to his billing to win for the second time in the famous maroon silks of Gigginstown House Stud. 

Russell hung up his breeches after the 2023 Grand National at Aintree, having signed off in fitting fashion with a Grade 1 double at the meeting.

WhatGrand National 2024
WhereAintree Racecourse, Liverpool
When5.15, Saturday 13th April, 2024
How to watchbet365 live Sports Streaming Service, ITV & Racing TV
OddsCorach Rambler 20/1, Kitty's Light 20/1, Gaillard Du Mesnil 25/1, I Am Maximus 25/1, Noble Yeats 25/1, Vanillier 25/1, Fastorslow 25/1, Delta Work 33/1

Russell part of a golden generation

Davy Russell was part of a generation of top riders in the jumps game that will be fondly recalled, with the likes of Ruby Walsh, AP McCoy, Barry Geraghty, Paul Carberry and Richard Johnson having been amongst his peers in the saddle. 

A native of Youghal, Co Cork, Russell's career has been stellar by any measurement. In total, he rode 25 Cheltenham Festival winners and was leading rider in 2018, while he was also champion jump jockey three times in Ireland (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2017-18). 

Indeed, Russell at one stage in his career rode a winner at every Cheltenham Festival from 2006-2018 - a remarkable streak. 

He was retained rider for Gigginstown House Stud, a job Michael O'Leary famously sacked him from over a cup of tea, but the classy jockey held his council at that time and would later enjoy those back-to-back Grand National wins for the O'Leary's operation on board Tiger Roll.

Tiger and Davy for legendary partnership

Tiger Roll is the horse that will always be associated with Russell's career after their successive Aintree wins in the world's most recognisable jumps race. 

"I'll never forget my first winner and I'll never forget my last but it's hard to get away from Tiger Roll," he said at Thurles in December when announcing a decision to retire from race-riding. 

Injury to Jack Kennedy less than a month later ensured his absence was short-lived as he returned to aid long-time ally Gordon Elliott in a time of need. 

The likes of Presenting Percy, Lord Windermere, Conflated, Envoi Allen and Samcro were other standout horses to be associated with Russell in his career but there's no doubt that when his time in the saddle is being recalled, it will be those famous afternoons at Aintree with Tiger Roll underneath him that stir most.

Glory days in the Cotswolds

In total, he rode 25 Cheltenham Festival winners. He announced himself on the Cheltenham Festival stage when taking the Cross Country Chase aboard the Philip Rothwell-trained Native Jack all the way back in 2006 and would bring up that amazing streak with a winner in the Cotswolds every March up until 2018. 

In amongst them was 2014 Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere for trainer Jim Culloty. On that afternoon, Russell's partner never seemed to be travelling with much enthusiasm and they'd have been an afterthought to most onlookers, but the canny rider hunted around and got the 20/1 shot to come with a fine run up the home straight to win in a photo finish. 

Back-to-back wins for Presenting Percy in 2017/2018, part of three successive wins in the Pertemps Final - one of the toughest handicaps to crack - from 2016-2018, and wins on the likes of Envoi Allen and Samcro as star novices' with lots of pressure on his shoulders formed part of the Russell Cheltenham Festival legend.

Cheltenham 2023 no way to bow out

After returning from retirement after a mere three weeks out, Russell was back amongst the winners Sa Fureur at Punchestown for Elliott in January 2023. 

Grade 1 success followed at the Dublin Racing Festival when Mighty Potter scored in fine style. They were beaten together at the Cheltenham Festival in March however, as Russell went winless at the meeting and ultimately stood himself down from the Gold Cup citing soreness. 

It seemed as though that might be the end of the line, but the jockey eventually revealed his plan was to sign off at Aintree, confirming that both his wife, Edelle, and long-time ally Elliott were two of the driving factors in convincing him that Cheltenham was no way to end his career.

Fitting finale for jumping great

The racing gods were with Russell in what proved his final few days as a rider at Aintree. 

He was on board Gerri Colombe – rated a 7/1 chance to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2024 – for his win in the Mildmay Novices' Chase and also steered Irish Point home in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices' Hurdle – both for Elliott. 

Russell's final swing at the Grand National didn't go well, however, as he was unseated from Galvin at the first fence. 

He cut a beaming figure on his final day in the saddle nonetheless, professing his contentment at a stellar career and the fact that he'd had the chance to go out in style at Aintree, rather than after the despondency of Cheltenham a month previous. 

Russell has already begun the transition from race rider to pundit with a stint on RTE television during the Punchestown Festival and his jostling with Ruby Walsh seems sure to be every bit as unforgiving and entertaining as when they were foes on the track.

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