Saturday 17 March 2018

Russell eager to extend his unbroken run of Festival winners

Davy Russell. Photo: Sportsfile
Davy Russell. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Armytage

Davy Russell has never been leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival - not even in 2014 when he rode a last-day treble - but he boasts a remarkable record: a winner there every year since Native Jack gave him his first in the cross-country in 2006.

His 18 victories include the Gold Cup in 2014 on Lord Windermere and his most recent, Presenting Percy, which won last year's Pertemps Hurdle, is favourite for the RSA Chase and looks the pick of this year's rides, which will also include several for Gigginstown, Michael O'Leary's outfit which famously sacked him as stable jockey at the end of 2013 - after a winner, and over a cup a tea.

That he is champion-elect and now just about O'Leary's favourite pilot again, is a good advert for keeping your head down and your own counsel on the subject; though, ironically, not even Ruby Walsh is in as much demand at Cheltenham preview evenings across Ireland as the entertaining and forthright Russell.


Brought up on a farm near Youghal, the Russells had a few horses. He, his two brothers and three sisters were all into ponies, but while all his siblings lost interest, he stayed with it.

"We walked hound puppies for the local hunt which was good for a few contacts," recalls Russell, who already has one hand on the Irish jockeys' championship this season.

"I'd hunt on Saturdays and go pointing on a Sunday."

His first winner as a professional was in England for Ferdy Murphy, who had offered him a job when he was 23.

He won 25 races in his first year, but unlike a lot of Irish jockeys in those days, he never cut his ties with home, returning to ride most Sundays, and after two and a half years he went home full-time to ride as a freelance.

"The first really good horse I got on was the Charles Byrne-trained hurdler Solwhit," he says. "As Charles grew, I grew."

His first ride at the Festival was in the Kim Muir for Murphy.

"I didn't know where I was, how to get there and I had nowhere to stay until Ted Walsh offered me a bed which was going spare in the place he'd rented," he recalls.

Of course this meeting has gone on to become a second home for Russell and is where his sympathetic style of horsemanship comes into its own and is in much demand.

"The main thing," he says, "is to be associated with very good trainers."

Back home, Russell is already looking to the future. "I've the makings of a stud without a stallion," he says.

"I trade a few and I've a nice brood-mare who is three-parts sister to Douvan."

Daily Telegraph, London

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport