Legendary cyclist Davey Russell announces retirement after winning Thurles | Horse racing news

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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Davy Russell celebrates his famous Tiger Roll win at the 2019 Grand National in Aintree

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

Davey Russell, one of the greatest vault jockeys of all time, has announced his retirement from riding at the age of 43 after a stellar run at Liberty Dance in the feature race at Thurles on Sunday.

His exit from the weigh-in room has always been moot, and it was fitting that a rider so ingrained in the grassroots of the game should bow on such a low-profile occasion in Thurles.

Victory in the Billy Harney Memorial Irish novice hurdler EBF Mares wasn’t a glorious fire to push Russell’s signature wave and look skyward – an homage to a self-made Western – but caught everyone feeling off guard instead.

The Gold Cup and double Grand National winning rider on the Tiger Roll has been the most successful active vault rider in the weight room, and his bombshell arrived just 24 hours after Frankie Dettori announced he would retire at the end of 2023.

Although he found a rare void at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, Russell enjoyed some impressive race wins last season over Galvin in the Savills Chase and Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup, as well as the Three Stripe Life in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Jack Kennedy was drawn into the front-running position to Gordon Elliott, but Russell continued to hold it, Liberty Dance being the 26th winner of the season at Thurles. Given Kennedy’s promotion, he didn’t have the same quality of firepower to draw from, but the fact that he was riding at all was a testament to his resilience.

In September 2021, Russell is back in the saddle after spending 11 months on the sidelines with serious injuries. He fractured his C6 and C7 vertebrae and a T1 dislocation when Dr. Duffy walked out of the Monster National for 2020, but he defied the expectations of many spectators to eventually make a comeback.

He fell off the scene having also been the most successful rider at the Cheltenham Festival with 25 victories.

Despite his age and catalog of injuries, he continued to ride with the hunger and skill of a man half his age.

Although the Gold Cup winner took out the Jim Culotti-trained Lord Windermere in a dramatic 2014 edition – when he had to survive a stewards’ enquiry after being swept across the runner-up on himself – Russell’s most famous union ultimately came aboard Tiger Roll.

Together, they secured a historic slice of Aintree history in 2019 by becoming the first back-to-back Grand National winners since Red Rum in 1974.

At Cheltenham last March he seemed to evoke a romantic climax to the Panther story when he drove over the last fence on a cross-country chase, only for stablemate Delta Work to spoil the party under Jack Kennedy in Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown second colours.

It may not be the coveted swan, but the occasion would certainly make for one of the most memorable moments in Cheltenham folklore.

John Grosek (racingpost.com/photos)

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Davy Russell with Gordon Elliott and O'Learys

Davy Russell with Gordon Elliott and O’Learys

John Grosek (racingpost.com/photos)

The Covid-19 pandemic denied Team Tiger Roll the chance to become the first to take three consecutive race wins in 2020, and Tiger Roll was excluded from the Aintree benefit in 2021 and 2022 after O’Leary objected to the mark he submitted. It is customized by the contestant.

His retirement in March was planned, and Russell’s departure marks the end of an amazing 23-year career.

The proud County Cork native, father of five and married to Edel, has become one of the most respected cyclists in recent times, starting with his maiden win on the Michael O’Connor-trained Right ‘N’ boat. Royal in Gowran Park on May 20, 1999.

In all, Russell rode a Phenomenal 58 Class 1 winners, including a memorable win at the 2019 Grand Steep de Paris in Carriacou for Isabelle Pacholt.

John Grosek (racingpost.com/photos)

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Davey Russell: The eighth most successful jumping jockey of all time

Davey Russell: The eighth most successful jumping jockey of all time

John Grosek (racingpost.com/photos)

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