Russell ready to roll again

Davy Russell, the man who steered Tiger Roll to his famous back-to-back wins in the Aintree Grand National, is ready to return to race-riding after almost a year on the sidelines.

Russell partnered the brilliant Tiger Roll to successive wins in the Randox Grand National in 2018 and 2019 before they missed the hat-trick opportunity when the race was abandoned in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gigginstown House Stud elected not to run in the 2021 Grand National, with Tiger Roll felt to have been given too high a handicap rating for the race by owners Michael and Eddie O’Leary.

Tiger Roll 2019

RACING-ENG-NATIONAL Jockey Davy Russell celebrates after riding Tiger Roll to victory in the Grand National Handicap Chase horse race on the final day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, north west England on April 6, 2019. Tiger Roll put his name alongside legend Red Rum on Saturday winning back to back Grand Nationals in stunning style. The 4-1 favourite, superbly ridden by Davy Russell, took up the running at the last fence and although 66-1 outsider Magic of Light came back at him the nine-year-old had enough to spare to emulate Red Rums feat in 1973-74. Oli Scarff/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

A year on the outside

Russell, 41, has not ridden in public since fracturing his C6 and C7 vertebrae and dislocating his T1 when his mount Doctor Duffy crashed out of the Munster National last October at Limerick.

It’s been a long road back to fitness for the three-time Irish champion jockey but Russell is now closing in on his return as the National Hunt season braces for a step up in pace.

Russell’s return will coincide with that of trainer Gordon Elliott, whose six-month ban for bringing racing into disrepute ends on September 9th.

The pilot has been on board 25 Cheltenham Festival winners, including the 2014 Gold Cup on Lord Windermere, and Russell is thrilled that their comebacks are set to be in harness.

“I’m looking forward to getting back and I’m feeling good. Myself and Gordon have worked very well together for a long time and it’s something to look forward to [returning at the same time],” he said.

Long-time association

Elliott and Russell have been a potent team in recent years. They’ve enjoyed major successes on both sides of the Irish Sea, with Tiger Roll’s pair of Grand National wins amongst the standouts.

The Youghal native believes there’s every reason to see that success continuing in the coming months.

“Gordon has been a huge influence on my career and he’s been a big help to me so hopefully there will be plenty more to look forward to,” he added.

“Gordon has some very nice horses heading into the winter. To be able to ride horses like that is what we all dream about so I’m just concentrating on getting back to full fitness and being ready when called upon.”

Competition at Cullentra

Jack Kennedy, who won the Gold Cup on Minella Indo for Henry De Bromhead back in March, has been sidelined for a month after damaging ribs in a fall at Roscommon last month and he, too, is nearing his return.

Russell expects the usual competitive environment to be in place at Cullentra House this season when Elliott retakes the reins from Denise Foster.

“Gordon has a few jockeys to choose from and it all depends on who suits each horse but there will be plenty of competition for rides anyway,” he added.

“I haven’t been riding out anywhere else. I have been tipping it up and down to Gordon’s for the past few weeks and keeping busy at home. I got quite heavy and it was hard to get the weight off but I’m back near enough to where I need to be.

“There is no specific date. It will all depend on ground and different things but I’m raring to go.”

There still remains a possibility that Tiger Roll could return to Aintree in 2022 for another crack at the Grand National.

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