DECORATED former dual champion jockey Barry Geraghty has backed Jack Kennedy to bounce back from the blow of missing the Cheltenham Festival due to the fifth broken leg in his career.

Kennedy, who has amassed a staggering 36 Grade 1 winners at the age of 23, was officially ruled out of the meeting following a visit to orthopaedic surgeon Paddy Kenny on Friday morning, having been pushing hard to recover in time following a fall aboard the ill-fated Top Bandit at Naas on January 8th.

His absence paves the way for Davy Russell to play a leading role in Gordon Elliott’s riding plans at Cheltenham.

Russell, who spent less than a month in retirement before returning to fill in for the injured Kennedy, will have his first rides since February 16th when travelling to Leopardstown this Sunday to partner Fils D’Oudairies and Present Soldier in the opening two races. He has only ridden twice since a Dublin Racing Festival double on February 5th.

“We all feel for Jack,” Geraghty told The Irish Field. “Time was always against him, especially with an injury that involves a weight-bearing bone. You’d have to be sorry for him with the tough run he’s been through for someone aged 23.

“It’s a real pity for him and he would have had some great rides to look forward to, but Gordon has been backing him fully all the way through. The fact all those horses will be there for him when he returns is a great bit of security that he can bounce back when returning.

“Jack’s CV tells you that he’s right up there with any of the top riders at this stage of their careers. He’s a very good rider who makes the right calls at the right times. He has a massive future ahead, but even what he’s achieved for his age is unbelievable.”

Russell’s opportunity

Geraghty, who retired from the saddle after the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as the second most successful rider in the meeting’s history with 43 wins, hopes Russell can go out on a high in the Cotswolds this month, while also remaining optimistic that Jordan Gainford and Sam Ewing are given opportunities.

“It was a big call for Davy to come back this season at his age [turning 44 this June], but he had only gone away for a few weeks before returning,” said Geraghty.

“Now he has the chance to sign off in style, so it’d be great if he could have some success over there. As they say, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and Davy could reap the rewards. Jordan and Sam will surely be eager to make their mark too in what is a tough situation for Jack.”

Kennedy’s agent Kevin O’Ryan expects the Kerry native will be pushing to return soon after Cheltenham, explaining: “He tried his best but it’s just coming too soon. He’s keen to get back as soon as possible, but he’s going to give it all the time it needs.”

No active jockey at the Cheltenham Festival has ridden more winners at the meeting than Russell’s tally of 25. He is priced between 6/1 and 10/1 as third favourite to be crowned top jockey at this year’s Festival.