ARTICLE BY DARREN O’CONGHAILE
“Irish Horse racing would tame” lions – there is no time for any jockey to savour yesterday’s results, as they don’t win today’s races.
Jockeys nowadays, are only as good as their last winner. It is an ultra-competitive sport in which if you’re not on top of your game continuously you wouldn’t be too long losing your big race rides. it is not how you fall, it’s all about how you land in this cut-throat industry. Three-time Irish champion jockey David ‘Niall’ Russell is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best Irish jockeys of our present-day generation.
The second youngest of six children and raised on the farm of his parents Jerry and Phyllis Russell in Youghal, County Cork, Ireland. His father owned a few racehorses and I assume that’s where is his love of the thoroughbred initially came from. Russell rode for four years as an amateur in point-to-points in Ireland, winning his first race in February 1999. During this period, he also worked in a fish factory.
In 2002 Russell relocated to Yorkshire, England, to ride for the England-based trainer Ferdy Murphy.
After spending 14 months with Murphy he returned to Ireland and spent a season with handler Edward O’Grady and then two years as a freelance jockey. He had his first Cheltenham Festival win in March 2006 on the Philip Rothwell trained Native Jack in the Cross Country Chase. Since then he has had vast success at the Cotswold venue.
In September 2007 he was asked to become Michael O’Leary’s retained stable jockey at Gigginstown House Stud, a favourable post he held until he was sacked after a win and over a ‘cup of tea’ at Punchestown Racecourse on New Year’s Eve. He was always respectful of O’Leary’s decision to get rid of him, never once did he bad mouth O’Leary to any preying media outlet waiting-in-the-wings, Perhaps that is why he continued to ride for O’Leary on numerous occasions, and won two Aintree Grand National on Tiger Roll for them – it proves the theory right – “Be gracious in your giving for as long as you’re living. The blessings will come back on an unexpected day and present themselves in an unexpected way”.
“Everyone has the fire, but only the champions know when to ignite the spark”.
Who knows what the future holds for Mr Russell, nonetheless one thing is for certain It is a pleasure to see him riding in our local racecourses on a daily occurrence. Was the ‘cup of tea’ the making of him?