Gold Cup and Grand National winner Davy Russell has announced his immediate retirement from the saddle after riding a winner at Thurles.
The veteran jump jockey had done the rounds aboard Gordon Elliott’s Liberty Dance, the 6-5 favorite and the horse was a comfortable winner over hurdles. Returning from the paddock, Russell confirmed that the race was to be his last.
In 2014, Russell won the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Lord Windermere, 20-1, for trainer Jim Culloty. Most recently, Russell has been linked with the Elliott-trained Tiger Roll, the two-time national hero who won the famous race in 2018 and 2019 with the jockey on board both times.
Russell, 43, was seriously injured in 2020 in a crash at the Munster National in Limerick, resulting in a serious neck injury including fractured and dislocated vertebrae which required surgery and a lengthy recovery period. After missing out on the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, Russell returned to the saddle last September after an 11-month absence.
“It’s a special moment and it’s great to do it here because Thurles is the center of our sport and it’s great to do it here,” he said. “The race has been canceled for so long and I had in mind to retire when I have my next winner.”
“When I broke my neck I had a little shock. People thought I was going to retire – if the injury stopped me well, but I was happy to do it on my own terms. That testifies to my family who never questioned my decisions, even though they seemed strange at the time. But I felt that I needed something to push me through rehabilitation and the best incentive was to start riding again.
“I only decided the day I was declared to ride again that I was going to come back because it was hard work. My neck flex wasn’t working properly then, but I’m fine now. I have aches and pains, but I’m not going to blame that, it’s just the weather. I spoke to Gordon a long time ago about retirement and he was supportive all the way. I’m delighted the winner is for Tim (O’Driscoll) who is a big part of the yard.
He continued, “I have five children and a lot of work to do. I’d love the workout romance, but starting over at 43 would be tough. It would depend if the kids wanted to ride point to point or whatever in 10 years I could train a few point to pointers or whatever. I’m at the top now and getting back to zero (training) would be tough.
He added: “I dreamed of it (a successful jockey career), but I never thought my dreams would come true. I will never forget my first winner or my last, but it’s hard to remember. away from Tiger Roll.