Davy Russell has long been a top quality jockey and always been a superb horseman but even by his high standards, he is riding out of his skin right now with 33 winners so far this season going into the Galway festival.
That makes him leading jockey at the early stages of the season, 13 winners ahead of Ruby Walsh in second. Davy’s patient style allows a horse to carry him ahead of him asking for a response and it was seen to best effect in his finest hour, the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup win on Lord Windermere. It looked like exaggerated waiting tactics as the race unfolded but it turned out to be one of the greatest Gold Cup winning rides, certainly in recent times.
I met Davy during my time in Arthur Moore’s and I remember him best in this time for another sensational ride on Lastoftheleaders in the Dan Moore Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse in 2013. It looked like the horse was dropping back through the field but it transpired that the rider felt the pace of the race was too quick and so he let them burn each other out and got the Supreme Leader gelding home in front in a race honouring Arthur’s father making it an emotional success.
When he lost his job as retained rider for Gigginstown House Stud in 2013, it looked as though the road ahead for Russell would be tough but as Eddie O Leary recently stated, Davy started ‘riding like God’ subsequently and at that year’s Cheltenham Festival, the owners recalled him to ride Tiger Roll and Savello to win after injury ruled out his replacement, Bryan Cooper, who suffered a badly broken leg from a fall off Clarcam in the Fred Winter. The double for the owners was either side of Lord Windermere’s Gold Cup win, making it a treble for the jockey.
Since his first Cheltenham Festival winner on Native Jack in the 2006 Cross Country Chase for Phillip Rothwell, Davy has not left the great meeting without a winner. Those winners were Joe’s Edge (2007), Naiad du Misselot and Tiger Cry (2008), Weapon’s Amnesty (2009 and 2010), First Lieutenant and Carlito Brigante (2011), Sir des Champs (2012), Lord Windermere (2013), Tiger Roll, Lord Windermere and Savello (2014), Windsor Park and Rivage D’or (2015), Diamond King and Mall Dini (2016), Presenting Percy (2017).
That achievement should not be underestimated and those 17 winners have come for ten different trainers which is a fantastic stat. He’s the old reliable and you can always trust him to give a horse a good ride no matter what the stakes.
Should Davy Russell steer clear of injury this season, I believe he will go very close to winning another Jockey’s Championship and his association with the brilliant Gordon Elliott seems to be getting stronger. He also has gentlemen’s agreements with the likes of Chris Jones and Phillip Reynolds, as well as Dai Waters in Britain.
While I’ll always have the great memory of Davy and Lastoftheleaders in the Dan Moore, it has to be said that his association with the Charles Byrnes pair Weapon’s Amnesty and in particular, Solwhit, were sensational. He could have had another Gold Cup had Weapon’s Amnesty stayed sound and similar with Solwhit in a Champion Hurdle – or of course had Hurricane Fly not been around. Despite this, he won many big races on the pair and the Youghall native is now really riding like God.
Article by Mark Keating