New ambassador Russell has high hopes for season

HORSE Racing Ireland yesterday announced that Davy Russell is to be HRI’s National Hunt ambassador for the 2011/12 season, following in the footsteps of champion trainer, Willie Mullins, and jockey, Barry Geraghty.

In his role as ambassador, Russell will be giving racegoers an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at his quest to be champion National Hunt jockey for the first time, his race-day preparation and hectic lifestyle as number one to Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud. Russell will also be recording his highs and lows on Twitter and Facebook.

He has been in terrific form so far this campaign and is currently the clear leader in the jockeys’ championship.

His most memorable performance was surely aboard Quito De La Roque in the Grade 1 JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, turning what appeared to be inevitable defeat into a glorious success, after a power-packed display from the saddle.

Said Russell: “I’m very keen to do anything I can to help with the promotion of racing, to bring it more into the spotlight, and so I was thrilled to be asked to be HRI’s National Hunt ambassador for this season.

“It looks like it’s going to be a busy season for me and I’m over the moon at the moment, as we’ve had an unreal run in the last couple of weeks.

“I was thrilled with Last Instalment at Punchestown on Sunday. The first time I schooled the horse over fences I loved him and love him even more now. The way he travelled and jumped at Punchestown was very encouraging.”

Two others Russell recommends keeping on one’s side are First Lieutenant and Bog Warrior.

First Lieutenant, a Cheltenham hero in March, has really taken to fences. Said Russell: “I’m delighted with him, as he has been running in races that haven’t been suitable. His whole season is being geared around Leopardstown at Christmas and Cheltenham.”

Bog Warrior, who made a spectacular start over fences at Navan last month, excites the rider. “I like him and think he has a big engine,” said Russell.

“There is a strong team of horses still to come out and I’m just hoping that the bright start keeps on going. I will be at plenty of events, will be doing plenty of interviews and, like quite a few of the jockeys, I’m enjoying twitter and facebook too, which I will be updating regularly.

“I will have to learn the ropes a bit, but I’m looking forward to getting into it. There are lots of very good things about racing here. The people are great and so is the kick that they get out of it.

“Riding for Gigginstown is a dream job for me. I am riding savage horses and every day I go racing there is at least one decent horse waiting for me. They are in the care of good trainers and carry the colours of a great owner, who loves the National Hunt game.”

Michael O’Leary commented: “Davy is one of Ireland’s leading and most talented jump jockeys. His record on big days from Punchestown, Galway to Cheltenham speaks for itself.

“We’re privileged to have him riding the Gigginstown horses. As for his ambassadorial skills... God help us!”

Tamso Doyle, PR Manager for Horse Racing Ireland, said: “We are looking forward to working with Davy and hope that, with his wide knowledge, insights and openness, we can add a bit extra to people’s racing interest over the next six months, as he challenges for the jockeys’ title.”

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