Top jockey Davy Russell admits his appearance on RTÉ’s Prime Time last week was ‘probably a mistake in hindsight.’
Russell spoke on the programme in defence of his friend Gordon Elliott after an image of the trainer sitting atop a dead horse was released on social media.
Russell - who rode the Elliott trained Tiger Roll to back-to-back Grand National wins - said he just ‘couldn’t get the words out’ during his interview with Louise Byrne.
Russell admitted: “If you didn’t see it, I appeared on Prime Time on RTÉ last Tuesday night which was probably a mistake in hindsight.
“I wasn’t going on there to stand up for the photo, I just wanted to stand up for the man.
“There had been so much vitriol and hate flying around on social media that I felt I needed to clarify a few things. The reality was that my head was shot to pieces and I wasn’t in a good place having witnessed heartbreaking scenes in the yard only hours earlier.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous in all my life and I just couldn’t get the words out.
“It will be hard for many of you to empathise, but I was hurting for a friend,” he wrote in a blog for starsports.bet.
Russell also vowed that he will ‘be there’ for Elliott who is now serving a six-month ban for bringing the sport into disrepute.
And he also challenged those who are basing their opinions on the trainer on one photograph.
Russell said: “I am better placed than most to tell you a little bit more about Gordon Elliott the man. He is not the animal-hating demon-like figure that so many are sadly painting him out to be. In fact, he is the exact opposite. Horses are his life. He loves them more than any human. He has also been hugely loyal to me in recent years and been there for me throughout the good times and bad times. I have so much to be grateful to him for and I’m proud to be able to call him a friend.
“So much of the success I have had in the saddle is down to Gordon. I have him to thank for a lot of the happiness and stability in my personal life too. He has promised to vindicate the faith all his close supporters have in him and I will be there for him on that long road ahead.
“If you have never visited Cullentra you won’t be aware of the true love and care shown to every horse in the yard – it’s actually been described as a five-star hotel for horses. The attention to detail, care, and support is off the charts. Regular racegoers will be aware of how immaculately every horse from the yard is turned out at the races. That’s a fact that mustn’t be lost in all of this.”
The Cork jockey also described the 'heartbreaking' scenes when a number of the stable’s top stars were removed last week by owners.
“You must understand that despite the ban handed out by the IHRB on Friday, nothing will compare to the punishment the yard received that day. I cannot get the image of the tears out of my mind as Envoi Allen, a horse of a lifetime, made his way out the yard. It was heartbreaking to watch and there were some members of staff that literally had to be picked up off the floor. To watch so many people’s hard work and dreams start to unravel in the space of hours is one of the toughest things I have ever had to witness.”