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Davy Russell: ‘I have about as much respect for Michael O’Leary’s opinion as he has for my opinion’

Jockey Davy Russell has hit back at Michael O’Leary after the Ryanair boss suggested he should not have come out of retirement.

In an interview with ITV Racing on Wednesday at Cheltenham, O’Leary said the Irish jockey had “nothing to achieve by coming back”, and added that he should have put his family first and stayed retired.

Russell (43), announced his retirement just before Christmas last year, but performed a U-turn when Jack Kennedy, stable jockey to trainer Gordon Elliott, broke his leg, meaning he would miss many of the spring festivals.

Russell confirmed in mid-January that he would return to ride for Elliott until Kennedy was fit once again.

“He’d retired and, personally, I wish he’d stayed retired. He has a young family with young children and at a certain point in time you should put your family first and not your riding career,” O’Leary said in the TV interview.

“When you get out at that age in your early 40s you don’t bounce, you don’t mend the way you did before. Particularly if you’re married and you have children: you put your family first.

“He’s had a glorious career and he has nothing to achieve by coming back and I don’t think he should’ve come out of retirement.”

Speaking to ITV Racing today, Russell responded: “I have about as much respect for Michael O’Leary’s opinion as he has for my opinion. 

"I didn’t see any father of the year awards being thrown out yet..I’m happy enough with my responsibilities at home. That’s about as much as that...I know I said it yesterday and that’s about it.” 

Russell was dropped as main jockey for O’Leary at the end of 2013 and at the time. O’Leary denied there was a row.

"I don't have a loyalty to any particular jockey, other than the one we prefer to use most, which is Jack and he is injured," said O'Leary.

"That’s not to say Davy won't be riding for us again. Have I fallen out with him? No. Is he riding many of my horses? No, but there are different reasons for that.”

Russell famously rode Tiger Roll to back-to-back Aintree Grand National victories for O’Leary in 2018 and 2019. 

Russell, who is one of the sport’s most accomplished riders, will ride a number of horses this week at the Cheltenham Festival. He has previously documented a very serious injury he received in which doctors gave him a 10pc chance of walking again.

In October 2020 he fell and dislocated and fractured three vertebrae. He was told that he around a 10pc chance or walking again.

"The surgeon said I was in the 10pc of people who had that injury who walk again so it's good to be in that,” Russell told Sky Sports last month.

“It was a simple fall, I just landed awkwardly and fell on the top of my head and compressed down. I broke one, crushed another and dislocated another so I knew I was in a bother when it felt like a firework went off in my thumb.

"There wasn't a huge amount of pain, just discomfort and I actually thought it was my shoulder that was broken. All the medical staff were fantastic -- I had to go into traction to stretch me out to put the dislocation back in.

“When they were operating they had to go through the front and they didn't want anything in the way. They bolt into the side of your head and add water and weights till it opens up enough to allow it back in and that was pretty torturous.”

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