Davy Russell still has his sights set on Cheltenham

Jockey back riding on the gallops after almost four months out with serious neck injury

Davy Russell remains very confident about making it back from injury in time to ride at the Cheltenham festival.

With five weeks until the start of jump racing’s biggest meeting of the year the three-time champion jockey is aiming to get his eye in before Cheltenham begins.

Russell has been out of action for almost four months since sustaining serious neck injuries in a fall at Limerick.

The 41-year-old damaged his C6 and C7 vertebrae as well as dislocating his T1 in a spill he admitted had been “touch and go” in relation to much more serious harm.

The finish line to a long rehabilitation process appears to be in sight with a final scan on his neck likely to take place this week.

“I’m a little bit caught up with Covid as the surgeons and hospitals aren’t that inclined to see me. But I’m going to make a decision then about the return and when it is going to be,” Russell said on Tuesday.

“I would be more comfortable riding for a fortnight before I go to Cheltenham. I’d hate to have to go to Cheltenham blind. But I’d very confident I will be in Cheltenham.

“I’m riding out every day. We have a little filly here at home that needs a bit of riding out so I’m riding every day. I’ve ridden bits of work, I’ve schooled as well, so everything is where it’s supposed to be.”

At the weekend Russell was urged to retire by the Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, for whom the jockey was No 1 rider for many years as well as partnering the dual-Grand National hero Tiger Roll.

O’Leary also said he didn’t think his old ally would take his advice and Russell appears determined to return to the saddle in time to try and add to his record of 22 Cheltenham festival winners.

Envoi Allen, perhaps the most exciting young talent in the sport, was one of three successes at the festival last year for the rider who also won on Samcro and Chosen Mate.

His injury has meant Russell has missed out on Envoi Allen's three victories to date over fences this season with Jack Kennedy stepping in for the coveted ride.

However, trainer Gordon Elliott has stressed that Envoi Allen remains the Cork man's ride.

Russell has proved a popular addition to RTÉ’s racing coverage in a number of occasional appearances this winter.

They included last Saturday at the Dublin Racing Festival when he clashed with his former colleague Ruby Walsh over the current suspension of point-to-points.

While Russell made the case for the importance of point-to-point action for racing overall, Walsh argued that horses which currently can’t run ‘between the flags’ could be put into training to run on the racetrack.

Russell said on Tuesday he didn’t want to clash with anyone but stood by his comments and said: “It just tells you how deep our game goes. It doesn’t just revolve around the Turf Club or certain areas. It is countrywide and it goes to different countries.”

In other news the Thyestes winner Coko Beach tops the weights for this Sunday’s Grand National Trial at Punchestown on Sunday.

A maximum field of 18 runners is allowed for the Valentine’s Day feature and after Tuesday’s forfeit stage Coko Beach is one of nine Elliott-trained horses in the 18 top-ranked entries.

The going at Punchestown is currently soft to heavy with an unsettled forecast including snow showers up to Friday. Rain is expected over the weekend.

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