Philip Rothwell’s horse took the Cross Country Chase that year after a thrilling finish in which he edged out the previous year’s winner Spot The Difference who, like so many before and since, just couldn’t stay the pace coming up that famous hill.
Ten times Russell has returned to Cheltenham for the festival since that day and yesterday’s win on Diamond King for Gordon Elliott in the Coral Cup means that he has stretched his unbroken winning streak at the Cotswolds in March to eleven seasons in a row.
Only Ruby Walsh, with 14 straight years, can boast better.
It is a remarkable record given the dangers jockeys contend with and Russell has bruised, broken, dislocated and punctured more than his fair share of body parts down the years. It is merely a quirk of fate that none of them have cost him a festival appearance.
Yet the Youghal pilot has had to contend with other misfortunes besides.
On New Year’s Eve three years back he was informed by Michael O’Leary over a cup of tea that he would no longer be the retained rider for his Gigginstown Stud.
Dark days and yet here he still is enjoying his time in the limelight.
That’s not to say he embraces it.
Russell enjoys the trot back into the winners’ enclosure. Always has.
The creased smile tells you that, but he is a reticent talker once he dismounts so asking him to sum up his achievement in winning here every year since 2006 was never likely to result in lengthy verbiage.
Then again, though he uses few words, they can say a lot.
“It’s more than good to win one,” he explained at one point.
“It’s the pinnacle. This is a gold medal.” Some minutes later and he dropped another brief but illuminating pearl.
“When you get older you learn to enjoy them more.”
His uncertain position as a gun for hire must only add to that. There was no guarantee Russell would partner Diamond Jack yesterday.
Jack Kennedy was in the saddle on the eight-year old’s last outing and Russell is in a select group of jockeys who have lost on the gelding before.
His week could get better yet.
The carousel that partners horses with jockeys and which characterises all meets saw him partnered with Don Poli for the Gold Cup when the ride came to a halt yesterday.
He talked haltingly of that, as if to do so would jinx it.
He is far more effusive when the conversation swings away from him.
“He’s trained by a genius,” he said of Diamond King and Elliott.
“All credit to Gordon, he got him here in tip-top shape. He’s a master of his trade and that makes it easy to ride (the horses). To be honest, I didn’t expect to be here and I’m over the moon to be.”