IF you haven’t yet, it’s well worth listening to Davy Russell’s interview with Joe Molloy on Off The Ball/Newstalk which was aired last week, even if it has become somewhat defunct after the dramatic news of the Cork native’s return to the saddle on Wednesday.
Early in the interview Molloy asked Russell if he felt that his riding was in decline to which the rider replied that he felt he was never riding as well.
“I was really, really enjoying it and I actually could have done it for a lot longer,” he said. “I was riding free, I was loose and I found it hard to make a mistake to be honest. It was amazing. The last couple of months I was at my very best or close to it at least.”
It’s easy to say it after the event but perhaps we shouldn’t at all be surprised that Russell jumped upon the opportunity Gordon Elliott gave him to come back.
This was the Davy Russell who had no hesitation about returning to race-riding after dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in his back just two years ago, an injury that kept him on the sidelines for 11 months.
He’s always been his own man and given the support afforded to him by Elliott down the years, he was always going to answer the trainer’s call.
You’d feel for Jordan Gainford all the same. He’s a Grade 1-winning and Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey already.
You could be fairly sure that when the dust settled after Kennedy’s fall, he’d have been all out to make the most of his opportunity. Yet the Wexford rider is unlikely to be anyway bitter as he will be the first to tell you Russell is one of the best around; he’s always been his idol.
It’s likely Davy will come in for the plum rides on the likes of Conflated, Mighty Potter and Fil Dor and many more at the Dublin Racing Festival. It’s a waiting game to see if he’ll be at Cheltenham as Kennedy will do everything he can to get back in time for the festival.
For now, Russell has five rides this weekend and barring one, they all have reasonable chances of giving him a winning return. The most high profile is Minella Crooner who takes on the Grade 3 Madigan Group Novice Chase at Punchestown tomorrow.
Earlier at Punchestown, Impaire Et Passe will be a hot favourite to win Grade 2 SkyBet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle. The Isaac Souede and Simon Munir-owned five-year-old shot clear in impressive fashion for his maiden hurdle win at Naas and may well shake up the betting for the Supreme Novice Hurdle with a similarly impressive win here.
Dysart Dynamo did just that for Mullins in this race last season and the champion trainer has also sent out Getabird, Min, Douvan and Vautour to score here in recent seasons, all of which shortened up significantly for the Festival curtain-raiser off the back of their performances.
Unusually, the race opens the card at 12.10, which Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill confirmed was to get the best ground for the five runners as opposed to avoiding any potential problems with low sun.
J.P. McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry expects a significant test for leading Mares’ Chase hope Impervious in the Grade 3 Madigan Group Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday, as Colm Murphy’s stable star makes her first start since being sold privately to the Ireland’s 19-time champion owner.
An impressive Grade 2 success over McManus’ well-regarded Dinoblue at Cork last month means Impervious must defy an 8lb penalty this weekend in a race won over the past decade by top performers such as Djakadam, Vautour, Yorkhill, Envoi Allen and Bob Olinger.
Already no bigger than 7/2 as second favourite for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, she faces six rivals on Sunday including promising last-time-out winners Ha D’Or, Journey With Me, Minella Crooner and Glengouly.
Berry told The Irish Field: “Impervious is a lovely mare. Looking at Sunday’s race, she probably has it all to do at the weights with her penalty but Colm is pleased with her.
“It looked a good race last time at Cork so we’re hoping for another big run here.”
Brian Hayes, aboard for Impervious’ last six starts, maintains his partnership with the seven-year-old daughter of Shantou as McManus’ retained rider Mark Walsh recovers from a trio of falls over the festive period. Walsh has been absent since riding a winner and two seconds from three Limerick rides on December 29th.
“It looks like Mark will be out for another two weeks,” said Berry. “He did some damage to a couple of ribs but hopefully he’ll be ready to go again before long.”