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Top Bandit puts Elliott back among the Cheltenham winners

Gordon Elliott declared it was “great to be back” in the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure after Top Bandit provided him with his first victory at the track since his suspension.

Elliott served a six-month suspension after a photograph of him sat astride a dead horse was circulated on social media earlier in the year.

He returned to the ranks in September and wasted little time in getting back among the winners, but he has never made any secret of his love of Cheltenham, having saddled 32 winners at the Festival to date.

On what was also a notable meeting for Cheltenham with crowds back on course, Elliott was eager to strike but he had to wait until the final race, the Foundation Developments Maiden Hurdle.

Always travelling smoothly for Davy Russell, another making his Cheltenham return after a long injury, Top Bandit was made to battle by Brorson to justify 15-8 favouritism.

“It’s great to be back at Cheltenham, as everyone knows I love training winners here,” said Elliott.

“When you’ve got Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy riding here for you it makes it a fair bit easier.

“We’ll have a few runners at the November meeting, but Cheltenham in March is what it’s all about. There are a few Irish people here today supporting us which is nice.”

Elliott added of Russell: “I never questioned he’d come back. He’s 42 but he’s different class. I’m very lucky to have him and Jack.

“Top Bandit will probably improve for a bit of soft ground but I couldn’t believe he didn’t win a bumper.”

Galvin keeps up winning run on Punchestown return

Galvin took his winning run to six with a pleasing display on his seasonal debut in the Irish Daily Star – Best For Racing Coverage Chase at Punchestown.

Absent since winning the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when in the temporary care of Ian Ferguson as Gordon Elliott served a six-month suspension, Galvin got the new campaign off to the ideal start in the Grade Three heat.

The Willie Mullins pair of Brahma Bull and Annamix ensured it was a proper test over three miles, with Davy Russell happy to sit in third place in the five-runner field.

Annamix tried to set sail for home after the third-last fence, but Galvin (evens favourite) was up to the challenge despite his seven-month absence.

The seven-year-old jumped the final obstacle with a narrow lead and kept on stoutly to hold the renewed bid of Annamix by half a length.

Davy Russell (right) with Galvin after their Grade Three success at Punchestown
Davy Russell (right) with Galvin after their Grade Three success at Punchestown (Alan Magee/PA)

Elliott said: “I thought it was a good performance with the weight he had, and we knew he was going to come on plenty from it. He was up against two race-fit horses.

“He’s entered in Down Royal and is a horse to look forward to for the season. It’s a race (Ladbrokes Champion Chase) that could cut up and he looks like he’s entitled to take his chance in a Grade One.

“We missed Listowel as we thought it was coming a bit too soon for him and he’s having a good blow after that race today.

“He only really does what he has to do, but he’s a grand honest horse and this has been a lucky race for us.”

Owned by Ronnie Bartlett, Galvin was cut to 33-1 from 40-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Paddy Power.

Elliott added: “He might be more of a Grand National horse than a Gold Cup horse, but he knows how to win.

“He doesn’t want bottomless ground.”

Embittered and jockey Bryan Cooper after their triumph in the Extra Places Everyday at Bet Victor Novice Chase
Embittered and jockey Bryan Cooper after their triumph in the Extra Places Everyday at Bet Victor Novice Chase (Alan Magee/PA)

Embittered landed a first graded success with a game performance in the Extra Places Everyday At BetVictor Novice Chase.

Bryan Cooper sent the Joseph O’Brien-trained seven-year-old into the lead two out after Exit Poll, who had beaten him at Roscommon, faded after setting the pace.

Embittered (5-4 favourite) stuck on well to hold the challenge of Hurricane Georgie by two and a quarter lengths to claim the Grade Three prize.

O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell said: “It was probably a bit sharp for him the last day and they got him out of his comfort zone halfway around. The extra few furlongs today suited him.

“He jumped lovely today and I thought he won the race by taking the other horse on a long way out.

“He tends to jump a bit left at times, but he jumped pretty straight today. Bryan gave him a lovely ride.”

My Mate Mozzie on his way to victory in the BetVictor Proud To Support Irish Racing Maiden Hurdle
My Mate Mozzie on his way to victory in the BetVictor Proud To Support Irish Racing Maiden Hurdle (Brian Lawless/PA)

My Mate Mozzie (11-8) was an impressive winner on his debut over the smaller obstacles in the BetVictor Proud To Support Irish Racing Maiden Hurdle.

A point-to-point and bumper scorer, Gavin Cromwell’s five-year-old made all under Sean Flanagan to beat smart Flat performer Barbados by eight lengths.

Cromwell said: “He’s a lovely horse and likes a bit of nice ground. He looks a nice festival horse.

“I haven’t really formed a plan, but maybe something like Leopardstown with some nice ground at Christmas and then the spring. I wouldn’t like to run him on heavy ground.

“He’s a very straightforward horse and has been very good from day one. He does everything professionally.”

My Mate Mozzie was introduced at 50-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Davy Russell celebrates first success since riding return

Davy Russell was back in the winner’s enclosure for the first time in almost a year at Navan on Saturday after steering Chemical Energy to an impressive victory.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider was sidelined for 11 months after dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick last October aboard Doctor Duffy.

Russell made his long-awaited return to action at Downpatrick on Friday, with each of his two rides for Gordon Elliott – who himself returned from a six-month suspension earlier this week – filling the runner-up spot.

Davy Russell and trainer Gordon Elliott (right) at Navan
Davy Russell and trainer Gordon Elliott (right) at Navan (Niall Carson/PA)

The 42-year-old appeared to have every chance of going one better at Navan, with dual bumper winner Chemical Energy the 4-7 favourite to make a successful start to his jumping career in the Bar One Racing ‘Double The Odds First Goalscorer Special’ Maiden Hurdle.

Making his first appearance since finishing down the field in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Elliott-trained five-year-old travelled strongly before pulling 11 lengths clear of Fancy A Cosmo with the minimum of fuss.

Russell said: “That was lovely. It was heartening to get such a nice reception when I came back in. My mother is from this part of the country, so my uncles used to always come racing here in the past. It’s a great place.

“It’s a lovely feeling when you cross the line. It’s a relief, if anything, and at least I can still do it anyway.

“I feel great, super, and got through Downpatrick no problem.”

Chemical Energy jumps the final flight clear at Navan
Chemical Energy jumps the final flight clear at Navan (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott was completing a double on the card after winning the opening maiden hurdle with the similarly promising Weseekhimhere (11-10 favourite), ridden by Jack Kennedy.

He said of Chemical Energy: “He’s not a bad horse. We’ll try to find a novice hurdle for him now. The owners are from England so I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up going over there for something.

“It’s great for Davy to come back on a winner, obviously he’s a big part of the team.”

The trainer then made it three with the Jordan Gainford-ridden Tullybeg (6-1) in the BarOneRacing.com Hurdle.

Minor honours for Davy Russell on Downpatrick comeback

Davy Russell had to make do with minor honours on his long-awaited return to action at Downpatrick.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider had been sidelined since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick last October aboard Doctor Duffy.

The 42-year-old had initially hoped to return in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March, but ultimately lost his race against time to be fit for the showpiece meeting, and ended up being out of action for just over 11 months.

Hopes were high that Russell could make a winning comeback aboard Gordon Elliott’s 7-4 favourite The Greek in Downpatrick’s opening Bill McIlroy Bookmaker Maiden Hurdle, but he had to settle for the runner-up spot behind Henry de Bromhead’s 15-length winner Serenity Grove.

“Yes, it’s great (buzz) and fantastic to be back,” the jockey said afterwards.

“I’ve had a lot of success here and I enjoy coming here – the crowd are very good to me.”

Russell looked likely to go one better on his only other ride of the day, after guiding the Elliott-trained The Abbey to the lead on the run to the second fence from home in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.

But while the 11-2 chance jumped the final obstacle in front, he was eventually reeled in by stablemate Hurricane Georgie and 5lb claimer Jordan Gainford.

Eliott said: “I’d say the weight kicked in up the hill (on The Abbey).

“Jordan gave the winner a nice ride, and she jumped well. That was great.

“She was solid over hurdles, but this race was made for her because she was getting all the allowances.”

Elliott completed a double when Top Bandit duly landed the odds in the Franco Hughes Bookmaker INH Flat Race.

Top amateur Jamie Codd steered the 2-7 shot to a smooth five-length victory over Mary Meehan, after pulling clear in the final two furlongs.

“He’s a grand horse and he will go jumping hurdles straightaway,” said Elliott.

“We couldn’t believe he hadn’t won a bumper before now.”

On his double, he added: “I love coming here, they are good people. I have been coming here since I was 14 or 15 years of age. It’s brilliant.”

Russell will head to Navan on Saturday to ride Chemical Energy, and Coach Carter is then his sole ride on the opening afternoon of the Harvest Festival at Listowel on Sunday.

Davy Russell excited to be returning to the saddle after 11-month absence

Davy Russell is relishing a return to competitive action at Downpatrick on Friday after 11 months on the sidelines with injury.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider has not been seen in the saddle since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October aboard Doctor Duffy.

The 42-year-old had hoped to return in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March, but ultimately lost his race against time to be fit for the showpiece meeting, while he also decided against a comeback at Punchestown the following month.

Davy Russell aboard dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll
Davy Russell aboard dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll (Mike Egerton/PA)

Having given himself plenty of time to recover, Russell makes his comeback aboard Gordon Elliott’s The Greek in Friday’s opener in Northern Ireland, before partnering his stablemate The Abbey later in the afternoon.

He said: “It’s been delayed a couple of times so it’s great to get there. I feel great.”

Speaking on RTE Radio’s ‘Game On’ programme, Russell admitted the early stages of his recovery were difficult, but insists he never gave up hope of returning to the saddle.

“I just had to accept that I had a serious injury and that it was all about recovering and trying to get back,” he added.

“I found it hard at the start when I couldn’t drive and had to walk everywhere. Then I started cycling. I was trying to do as much exercise as I could because I didn’t want to let my weight go up too much.

“I had a body cast and a neck cast and couldn’t see behind me. It was a relief to get the cast and neck brace off.

“It was a challenge, but there was always light at the end of the tunnel.

“Once the operation went well and the recovery went well, I was always happy I was going to get there.

“I love winning. That’s the one thing I missed. That feeling when you cross the line is irreplaceable really.”

Russell is back during the same week Elliott returned from suspension.

Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell have formed a formidable partnership
Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell have formed a formidable partnership (Brian Lawless/PA)

Elliott was banned for 12 months, with half of that punishment suspended, after an image of him sitting on a dead horse was widely circulated on social media in March.

Russell is looking forward to renewing the partnership, saying: “Myself and Gordon work really well together. When he is going I’m a better jockey, so I’m really looking forward to getting back in there.

“His ability to train horses is not in question and he doesn’t have to start at the very bottom where he had done in the past.

“I’d be quite confident he can get back to the level where he left off. He still has a lot of very good owners with him and a lot of nice horses.

“I’ll be treating him the same and a normal human being that understands life in general would treat him the same.”

Davy Russell returns at Downpatrick

Davy Russell returns to the saddle at Downpatrick on Friday after 11 months on the sidelines with a neck injury.

The dual Grand National-winning jockey has been out of action since a fall from Doctor Duffy at the first fence of the Munster National at Limerick last October.

He initially hoped to be back for Cheltenham and then Aintree in the spring.

Once he had missed all the big Festivals, Russell was determined not to rush back and instead made sure he was 100 per cent recovered before targeting a return to action.

The day will finally arrive on Friday, when he teams up twice with his old friend and ally Gordon Elliott.

He will ride The Greek in the Bill McIlroy Bookmaker Maiden Hurdle and later on the card partners The Abbey in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.

Davy Russell aiming for Downpatrick comeback next week

Davy Russell is set to return to race riding at Downpatrick next week after almost a year out of the saddle because of a serious neck injury.

The dual Grand National-winning jockey has been on the sidelines since his fall from Doctor Duffy at Limerick last October.

Russell initially set himself a new-year target to ride again. But that first deadline passed, and his hopes of being back in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March also proved in vain.

The three-time Irish champion, and 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, will be back instead next Friday.

He wrote in his blog for bookmakers Star Sports: “After fast approaching 11 months, I’m delighted to tell you that I’m pencilled in for a return to race-riding next Friday September 17 at Downpatrick – and then again at Navan the next day.”

His return comes in the same week as that of trainer Gordon Elliott, who is free to race horses again after serving his six-month suspension.

Russell said: “I’ve talked things through with Gordon, and I can virtually tell you the horses (I will be riding at Downpatrick) – but I won’t at this stage.

“I guess the key is for a bit of rain to fall and then we are all systems go.

“It’s exciting … I’m going to take things steady, and there is no set plan on how many I will ride each day or each week.

“If Gordon wants me to ride one, I’ll ride it all right – if he offers me five or six, that’s no bother either.

“The key is simply being ready to go, and that’s where I am at now. I promised myself I’d give it as long as it takes, because I didn’t want to come back and not be at my best.

“I pushed really hard to get back for Cheltenham back in March, but it was just too soon.”

Russell has enjoyed family time – and an unscheduled break in the regime of watching his weight and maintaining race-riding fitness – but is confident he is ready to resume his career.

The 42-year-old added: “It was last October I took that crashing fall from Doctor Duffy in Limerick – and it’s been a long road back.

“When you get to my age you have to be 100 per cent ready to return, and that’s why I’ve sat on the sidelines for so long.

“As for my fitness levels, I’m not a great runner after taking so many knocks over the years, so have been concentrating on riding out here at home and in Gordon’s (yard in County Meath).

“I’ve worked really hard at that over the last few months, and feel great.”

Russell added the prospect of again riding his fellow dual National hero Tiger Roll is a major incentive.

He said: “It’s a bit early for some of the classier horses to be back in training in Gordon’s, but it was great to see Tiger Roll back in and in terrific form.

“He’s such a legend of a horse, and it’s horses like him that make you stop eating ice cream!”

Davy Russell poised for imminent riding return

Davy Russell is looking forward to returning to race-riding in the next few weeks after nearly a year out through injury.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October aboard Doctor Duffy.

Russell, 42, has been working hard on his fitness for the prospect of renewing his association with trainer Gordon Elliott, whose six-month ban for bringing racing into disrepute ends on September 9.

Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell at Aintree
Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell at Aintree (David Davies/PA)

“We’ve been putting a good old shift in now and it’s all coming together. We’re just waiting for a drop of rain for those better horses to come out,” he said.

“Me and Gordon work well together and he’s been a huge part of my career for a long time, so it’s great. I’ll be waiting to see what Gordon’s plan is and fit in with that.

“Fingers crossed I’ll be back as soon as possible. When the rain comes, and the ground is safe for those good horses to come out, we’ll be ready to rock.”

Russell looking towards September as potential date for return to the saddle

Davy Russell is targeting a return to competitive action around September time as he continues to recover from a long-term injury.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October aboard Doctor Duffy.

The 42-year-old had hoped to return to the saddle in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March, but ultimately lost his race against time to be fit for the showpiece meeting, while he also decided against a comeback at Punchestown the following month.

Davy Russell celebrates Grand National glory with Tiger Roll
Davy Russell celebrates Grand National glory with Tiger Roll (Mike Egerton/PA)

Russell said on Monday he is “getting stronger every day”, but ruled out riding at the upcoming Galway Festival.

He said: “I’m coming along good. I’ve no real date as such yet.

“It’ll happen in September hopefully at some stage, but that wouldn’t be definite.

“I’m getting plenty of physio twice a week and I’ve loads of exercises and things to do, so I’m getting stronger every day.

“Galway will be too soon, I’d say. Fingers crossed for September.”

Davy Russell rules out Punchestown return

Davy Russell will wait for a less high-profile meeting to make his comeback after ruling himself out of the Punchestown Festival.

Russell has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October.

While he has been riding out for a number of weeks, the Gold Cup and Grand National-winning rider does not yet feel completely ready to return.

Writing in his Star Sports blog, Russell said: “I have run out of time to make my return to the saddle in Punchestown next week.

“My recovery continues to go really well and to be honest I feel great. I’ve been riding out and schooling regularly and could have given next week a shot. However, I’m not quite 100% ready and I always vowed I’d only return at that point.

“I’ve still got a tiny bit of discomfort that restricts full flexibility and I’m just not where I want to be to return on the biggest of stages.

“I mentioned when ruling myself out of the Cheltenham Festival that you have to be 100% fit to ride the likes of Envoi Allen and I stand by that. I’ll continue to work hard on my recovery and will target a less high-profile meeting for that return.”

Russell remembers ‘unbelievable’ Presenting Percy

Davy Russell has paid his tribute to Presenting Percy, hailing the dual Cheltenham Festival winner as an “unbelievable horse”.

Owned by Philip Reynolds, Presenting Percy – who died on Thursday, aged 10 – had looked a superstar in the making when producing a scintillating display under Russell to win the 2018 RSA Chase, adding to the pair’s victory in the Pertemps Final 12 months earlier.

He went on to win a second Galmoy Hurdle the following season, and was twice ridden by Russell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, starting favourite in the 2019 renewal.

Presenting Percy was put down following a three-month battle with a blood infection.

Russell told his Star Sports blog: “I posted a picture of Presenting Percy (on Twitter) earlier on Friday with the words ‘Oh I loved him dearly’ and I’m gutted we have lost such a special fella.

“He was an unbelievable horse who was so easy to ride and had such a talent. I spent some time on Friday morning watching back his Pertemps and RSA Chase victories in Cheltenham and I’m still amazed how easy he did it.

“It’s so sad to lose any horse and looking back at those special days, I am just so grateful we had him. We had some incredible moments with him and the Reynolds family that I’ll treasure forever.”

Russell to miss Cheltenham Festival

Leading jockey Davy Russell will miss next month’s Cheltenham Festival after failing to sufficiently recover from injury in time.

Russell – who won the Gold Cup aboard Lord Windermere in 2014 – has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October aboard Doctor Duffy.

Having returned to riding out after the turn of the year, the 41-year-old was last week optimistic he would be back in competitive action in time to ride at the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds.

Envoi Allen and Davy Russell on their way to winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival
Envoi Allen and Davy Russell on their way to winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival (PA)

However, Russell confirmed in a statement on Thursday that he will not be riding at the Festival – where his big-race mounts were set to include the brilliant Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Russell said: “I met with my surgeon earlier today – and although he is delighted with the progress I have made, he feels that I’m not quite where I should be in order to ride at Cheltenham next month.

“It is frustrating as I feel I have made giant strides in recent weeks on the road to recovery. However, after talking through things with (trainer) Gordon (Elliott), we both feel it sensible for me to follow advice and miss Cheltenham, as it is only weeks away.

“To ride horses of the calibre of Envoi Allen you have to be 100 per cent fit, and I would be doing the team a disservice to ride when I’m not ready. Obviously, it is hugely disappointing, but it is important to make the call early.

“I will continue to work hard on my recovery and look forward to getting back in the saddle the following month.

“I remain so grateful for all the extraordinary medical attention I have received, and thank you for all your lovely messages of support.”

Russell upbeat on prospect of Festival return after injury

Davy Russell remains confident he will return to competitive action in time to ride at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Russell – who won the Gold Cup aboard Lord Windermere in 2014 – has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick in October aboard Doctor Duffy.

Having returned to riding out last month, the 41-year-old is keen to get back on the racecourse before the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds, which starts four weeks on Tuesday.

Russell said on Friday: “It’s progressing well. I went to see a specialist today and had a bit of physio – and everything is good.

“I’m waiting on a report on a scan, and it will probably be next week before I can put a date on it, but it’s all looking good.”

Asked whether he was hoping to get in some match practice before the Festival, he added: “That’s exactly it. Hopefully I can get back a week or two beforehand.”

Having been stuck at home for most of the season, Russell was delighted to be back on a racecourse for last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Davy Russell was a winner on Envoi Allen at last year's Cheltenham Festival
Davy Russell was a winner on Envoi Allen at last year’s Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Watching the pulsating action live only whetted his appetitive further to get back in the saddle, though.

He added: “It was unbelievable – there was some marvellous racing. It was a helluva weekend.

“I think the novice hurdles in particular were very strong, and you had horses in them that could go different directions.

“There were a lot of competitive races, and I would think there’ll be plenty of winners to come out of them.”

Davy Russell delighted to be back in the saddle following neck injury

Davy Russell rode out on Tuesday for the first time since suffering an injury at Limerick in October.

The former champion jockey fractured two vertebrae in his neck and dislocated another when Doctor Duffy fell at the first in the Munster National.

Russell was in a neck brace for months, but recently had that removed and took another important step in his recovery at Gordon Elliott’s yard.

Riding Presenting Percy, among others, the Grand National-winning pilot was delighted to be back in the saddle, but is refusing to set a comeback date.

With Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown on the horizon, however, he has plenty to aim for.

“I was certainly happy to be back out and there were no dramas,” said Russell.

“I rode a couple of nice horses this morning and it was a nice feeling.

“It’s exciting to be honest, but I still haven’t set a target to be back – I need to go back to the doctor and go through all that.

“The toughest part is still ahead of me really, I need to get fit and lose some weight! Getting race-fit is the most important thing, but hopefully I can crack on now.”

Russell hopes to be back on horseback next week

Davy Russell hopes to be back on horseback next week as he steps up his recovery from the serious injuries he suffered in a fall in October.

Ireland’s three-time champion jockey has been on the sidelines since dislocating and fracturing vertebrae in a first-fence fall in the Munster National at Limerick aboard Doctor Duffy.

As well as damaging his C6 and C7 vertebrae, the 41-year-old dislocated his T1, meaning he needed traction to get everything back into its rightful place.

Russell, who was on board for both of Tiger Roll’s Grand National wins, has recently had his neck brace removed – and while a return to competitive action still appears some way off, he is hoping to get back to work in the coming days.

He said: “It won’t happen this week now, but I’m hoping to be back on a horse next week.

“I’ve all the gear off now. It was hard work and uncomfortable, but that’s the way it is.

“Hopefully I’ll pop up to Gordon’s (Elliott) next week and we’ll see how we go.

“We’re a long way away from that (returning to race-riding). It (the injury) is working fine on the ground, but it has to be working properly on a horse before we look too far ahead.”