Russell retains title

Davy Russell retained his title as champion jump jockey in Ireland with his third century and a hatful of winners for many trainers.

Russell has yet to pass the 126 he achieved when runner-up in the 2007-08 campaign behind Ruby Walsh, but his total of 103 was enough to claim the crown, although it was one less than last year’s winning tally.

Russell, 33, had finished second five times before finally fulfilling his ambition in 2011-12 and he showed he was no one-title wonder when coming out on top again.

He may be guaranteed a certain number of victories in his position as retained jockey to Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary under the Gigginstown House Stud banner, as highlighted by the triumph of Sir Des Champs in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown and Punchestown Gold Cup.

But victories for that team alone would not be enough to make Russell the number one.

His wide appeal is illustrated by the fact he gets a host of outside rides for many stables, large and small, from all parts of Ireland.

The best example of that in the latest campaign was his success on Rebel Fitz for colourful County Cork handler Michael Winters in the Guinness Galway Hurdle.

He managed to enjoy at least one notable success in the UK on Lord Windermere for Jim Culloty in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

However, Russell was brought back down to earth shortly afterwards when he suffering a punctured lung in a fall at the mecca of British jumps racing.

The true professional he is, he tried to carry on riding but was taken to hospital the day after the fall and missed notable rides on First Lieutenant in the Ryanair Chase and Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup.

The British Horseracing Authority’s medical team would not allow him to ride at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting three weeks later, but the Irish Turf Club declared him fit enough to ride at home and continue his pursuit of a second successive championship.

In that respect, it was mission accomplished.

“I know it was a tall order for Ruby coming here, but he had five rides and all of them could have won,” said Russell.

“I’m lucky enough to have come out on the right side of it.

“It was nice to win on Sir Des Champs this week and nice to get back on him and win a Grade One on him, they’re the important races.

“It’s hard to pick one winner over another and we’ve some lovely horses coming through so that’s nice, too.

“You try to ride as many winners at the start of the season and it’s great now that I’ve ridden more than anybody else.”

While Russell claimed his second championship, Willie Mullins was again crowned champion trainer while his son Patrick was the top amateur.

Mark Enright landed his first conditional title with 35 victories.

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