Russell delivers as 11th-hour sub on brilliant Buveur D'Air
Davy Russell was supersub extraordinaire as Buveur D'Air (2/1 joint-favourite) bounced back to his very best to land the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on a day when English raiders dominated at the Kildare track.
Champion jockey Russell was an 11th-hour replacement for Mark Walsh - ruled out with a suspected broken leg from an earlier fall - and made no mistake to land the €300,000 prize aboard Nicky Henderson's dual Champion Hurdler.
"I bumped into Frank (Berry) and he said was he looking for someone to ride him. You're going around every day and there are spares flying and you don't want to ride any of them!" Russell said.
"Then you get a spare like him, a dual Champion Hurdle winner. The game is so fickle. Look, it could be my turn tomorrow. It was unfortunate for Mark, he's a fantastic rider."
Buveur D'Air was cut to 8/1 to regain his Champion Hurdle crown next March with Henderson expecting to dine alone last night after denying his landlady Jessica Harrington with Supasundae (9/2) in second. "I might be eating on my own,' Henderson quipped. "But I know where I left the food last night."
With four children "and another on the way", Russell was adamant that he "couldn't afford" to follow Ruby Walsh into retirement and the 39-year-old joked that he has "no other choice" but to continue.
It was very nearly two consecutive big-race victories for the Cork pilot but Mouse Morris' Sams Profile (6/1) was just touched off in the Champion Novice Hurdle by Colin Tizzard's Reserve Tank (13/2) and Robbie Power.
It was also a red-letter day for trainer/jockey Denis Hogan, who steered Moyhenna (5/1) to his biggest success in the saddle when landing the €75,000 Mares Handicap Chase and he is now eyeing next year's Irish Grand National for the seven-year-old, owned by Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly.
"As a rider, this is by far my biggest winner and there won't be too many more of them I can tell you that. I'm not sure I'll ride too many more over fences because I want to concentrate on training," Hogan said.
Amateur Derek O'Connor finished in style with a 24/1 double aboard Gardens Of Babylon (5/2) in the novice hurdle for Joseph O'Brien and Martin Brassil's Longhouse Poet (6/1) in the Bumper.
Rachael Blackmore's stellar season took an unfortunate twist when the Tipp jockey was stood down for the remainder of the meeting after a nasty fall.