Saturday 17 March 2018

Davy Russell fancied to end Cheltenham Festival dominance of Ruby Walsh

Jockey Davy Russell. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Jockey Davy Russell. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Ruby Walsh will return to the saddle in the coming days after over three months on the sidelines but fellow Irish jockey Davy Russell has been well supported to end his dominance as top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival.

Walsh, top jockey at the Festival in 11 of the last 14 seasons, could ride at Thurles tomorrow after recovering from a broken leg suffered at Punchestown in November and will have a string of fancied rides at the Cotswolds next week.

Getabird (Supreme Novices' Hurdle), Footpad (Arkle), Faugheen (Champion Hurdle) and Laurina (Mares' Novices' Hurdle) are among his expected Festival rides but Russell – who has streaked ahead in the Irish jockey’s Championship with over 100 winners in his absence – is fancied to be top jockey.

With just six days until flag fall at Cheltenham, betting is heating up with Oddschecker reporting that almost a third of all bets placed have been on the Cork pilot, who has ridden a winner at each Festival since 2006.

With Willie Mullins sending over another strong battalion this year, Walsh is odds-on favourite to make it six in a row but with concerns about the Kildare rider's fitness, many punters have sided with Russell.

Gold Cup winner aboard Lord Windermere in 2014, Russell is expected to ride the likes of Presenting Percy (RSA Chase), Mala Beach (Ultima Handicap Chase), Petit Mouchoir (Arkle) and Mick Jazz (Champion Hurdle) making him a best priced 10/1 to take the Cheltenham crown.

Russell’s 18 Cheltenham winners

2006: Native Jack - Glenfarclas Cross Country

2007: Joes Edge - Ultima Handicap Chase

2008: Naiad du Misselot - Coral Cup, Tiger Cry - Grand Annual

2009: Weapons Amnesty - Albert Bartlett

2010: Weapons Amnesty - RSA Chase

2011: First Lieutenant - Ballymore Hurdle, Carlito Brigante - Coral Cup

2012: Sir Des Champs - JLT Chase

2013: Lord Windermere - RSA Chase

2014: Tiger Roll - Triumph Hurdle, Lord Windermere - Gold Cup, Savello - Grand Annual

2015: Windsor Park - Ballymore Hurdle, Rivage d’Or - Glenfarclas Cross Country

2016: Diamond King - Coral Cup, Mall Dini - Pertemps

2017: Presenting Percy - Pertemps

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