Double act delivers

One is a jockey who had never previously taken to serving just the one boss, the other a businessman whose hands-on approach included a shift loading luggage onto one of his English-bound planes earlier this week. It should have never worked, but it has and does.

Davy Russell has admitted before that his career had hit a dip before he was offered the opportunity to become the retained jockey for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown operation. He has spoken, too, about how he turned it down only to change his mind minutes later.

As u-turns go, it was a doozie.

Russell’s success on board Sir Des Champs in the Jewson Novices Chase yesterday brought to nine his number of successes at the Cheltenham Festival and five of them have come in the distinctive maroon colours of the Ryanair chief.

“C’mere, for me coming from the point-to-point field and to be retained by such a lover of the point-to-points and by someone who buys ... I’m not the smallest of jockeys but they are all big solid horses and I am just delighted with the way things are going,” said Russell.

“I hope Mr O’Leary is as happy.”

He certainly was yesterday. He may divide opinion like Bovril everywhere else but O’Leary’simpact on the Irish racing industry is not up for debate even if he played down the extent of his financial investment after this latest success.

“I wouldn’t say I have a massive investment,” he protested. “My wife is here so tone it down. Let’s just say I have a very small involvement.”

It is, of course, anything but and it isn’t just the magnitude of the operation that stands out these days so much as the quality of chasers produced and the ability to pare such gems with some of the country’s top trainers.

Russell travelled over this week with an impressive book of rides and was very close to ticking off his first win 24 hours earlier when First Lieutenant finished second behind Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase.

It is no wonder that there are those in the industry who say Russell has landed the most rewarding job of them all and the Youghal pilot was effusive in his praise for his latest winning conveyance after the Grade 2 win. “He does exactly what it says on the tin,” he said of Sir Des Champs. “He is big and robust and he stays. I was happy from a long way out I was going to run some description of a race and the further we went the more confident I got.”

A Gold Cup horse, maybe?

“C’mere, today was the day. We had a big decision to choose between himself and First Lieutenant and, look, we got 99% of that. That was the plan for this week. As Mr O’Leary and the Gigginstown team know, it is not that easy just to be mentioning Gold Cups now.

“There is a big long road in front of us and they will have to do an awful lot of tests, both himself and First Lieutenant, that will have to be passed before we ever dream of that. As regards the way today went, I rarely had any anxious moment.”

For O’Leary, it was a welcome change of fortune after “looking at Nicky Henderson’s bum” all week and being told by his children Matt and Luke that all his horses were “rubbish” after two blank days.

“This is the first time that this horse has really had it put it up to him and he did it very well. It was another peach of a ride around by Davy. It’s terrific. Fantastic. And Willie (Mullins) is a genius anyway.

“We have been hitting the crossbar all week and it’s nice to stick one in the net.”


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