Russell eases back to domestic action ahead of Cheltenham festival

Cork jockey to partner Galvin in Gold Cup while fit-again Power will be on board reigning champion Minella Indo

Davy Russell returns to action with half a dozen rides this weekend ahead of the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.

The veteran former champion jockey has been out of action for 18 days after being left “sore” due to a fall at Navan last month.

He is back at the track on Saturday with two rides for Gordon Elliott plus four more the following day at Naas. All of them are over hurdles.

“I’ve had a couple of falls recently so I haven’t ridden as much as I would have liked. I was a little bit sore. I’m not as young as I used to be so I just wanted to make sure I got there [Cheltenham] in one piece,” Russell reported.


The 42-year-old, who completed a remarkable comeback last autumn from fractured and dislocated vertebrae that kept him out for almost a year, is a 6-1 third-favourite to be top jockey at next week’s festival.

Russell was the leading rider at Cheltenham in 2018 with four winners and is the most successful current rider at the festival with 25 victories in all.

They include the 2014 Gold Cup on Lord Windermere and the Cork man has a leading chance in Friday's 'Blue Riband' with Galvin.

He is also in the running to ride his dual-Grand National winning partner Tiger Roll in the horse's potential career swansong on Wednesday.

Keith Donoghue rode Tiger Roll to his three previous victories in the Cross-Country Chase but the ride is up for grabs with Russell eager to be reunited his old ally.

“Tiger Roll is a very special horse to me. I’ve put my hand up to ride him, whether it comes to fruition we’ll see. He’s been brilliant all through my career but I haven’t ridden him that many times,” he said.

Robbie Power also has another Gold Cup success in his sights after it was confirmed on Friday he will be on board the reigning champion Minella Indo next week.

Successful five years ago on Sizing John, Power has retained the ride on Minella Indo despite Jack Kennedy’s possible availability. Kennedy stepped in for the ultimate ‘spare’ in last year’s Gold Cup.

Power rode Minella Indo to finish runner-up to Conflated in last month's Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

“I was at Henry’s [De Bromhead] last week and I jumped eight fences on Minella Indo and he was really good. He has come out of Leopardstown in great form.

“Henry and everyone is very happy with him. Every year he goes to Cheltenham he seems to improve and hopefully he will do the same this year. His run in the Irish Gold Cup was a very good run,” Power said.

Hip injury

The jockey, who returned in January from a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to a hip injury, has four rides this weekend.

They include Sizing Pottsie who could prove a major player in Saturday's Grade Two Webster Cup at Navan.

The six-runner field also contains the popular Grade One-winning novice Master McShee who has to concede weight all-round in his first clash with senior opposition.

Master McShee was runner-up to the exciting Galopin Des Champs in a Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival on his last start.

Champion jockey Paul Townend rides Cilaos Emery in the Webster Cup although, with the pick of Willie Mullins's massive festival team to look forward to, it's no surprise he is confining himself to just one other spin on what is a bumper weekend of domestic action.

Rachael Blackmore has been backed into as low as 7-2 to repeat her feat of being crowned top jockey at the festival. She was top rider in 2021 with six winners.

Blackmore rides Notebook in the Webster Cup and has two other rides at Limerick on Sunday including Sovereign Gold in a handicap chase.

Henry De Bromhead has four runners at Saturday's other fixture in Gowran Park where his bumper hope Arctic Bresil has a lot to live up to.

The trainer has won the point to point bumper for the last three years, most notably with Bob Olinger in 2020 and last year with next week's major Ballymore hope, Journey With Me.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column