"I'm not quite sure they realise the damage they were doing" - Russell hits out at 'reckless' Grand National protestors
The Grand National didn't go the way he wanted, but Aintree still gave Davy Russell the ending he long deserved.
The 43-year-old from Youghal bowed out at the very top of the game as, in his final, final meeting as a national hunt jockey, he rode two Grade One winners.
Fittingly, both Gerri Colombe and Irish Point were trained by Gordon Elliott, the man who, after a disappointing Cheltenham festival, urged Russell back out of retirement for one last day in the sun.
Russell had initially retired in Thurles earlier in the year but an injury to Jack Kennedy opened the door for his Cheltenham return.
The festival didn't go as planned, however, as the veteran failed to ride a winner and eventually stood himself down from his Gold Cup ride on Conflated.
It would have been a disappointing way to end a fine career but having been encouraged by Elliott and his wife Edelle, the legendary jockey returned for Aintree. And despite a first fence fall aboard Galvin in the National, Russell couldn't but be pleased with his weekend's work.
The sun sets on a glorious career - next stop #LuckonSunday for @_Davy_Russel_ - see you all in the morning 9am @RacingTV pic.twitter.com/LgQBisaPxf
— Nick Luck (@nickluck) April 15, 2023
Nice and all as it was to bow out on a winning note, Russell did say that he himself would have been able to park the Cheltenham disappointment and leave it at that. He said past glories would have over-shadowed the dull ending, but Elliott and his wife Edelle didn't want it to end that way, and that was what brought Davy back.
"It was great to go out the way I went out," he said on Racing TV's Luck on Sunday.
“I’m 43 years of age and Jack was waiting to take over the mantle, then unfortunately Jack got injured.
“Sam (Ewing) and Jordan (Gainford) were there, but we just felt we’d ease them in rather than just land it on them. If they had as bad a Cheltenham as I had, I’m not sure they’d have took it as well as I did. It served its purpose.
“My wife was very upset after Cheltenham. We’ve had so much success and Cheltenham just wasn’t really a happy place for me this year. I enjoyed it, but it just didn’t end up the way we would have liked.
“In between my wife and Gordon, they wanted me to end on a better note.”
On the other hand, the Grand National itself went off on something of a sour note as protestors delayed the start of the race, causing much controversy at the Liverpool venue. Speaking on Luck On Sunday, Russell questioned whether the protestors were aware of the damage they did.
"The manner they went about it was reckless."@_Davy_Russel_ felt the protests from the animal rights activists at Aintree had a detrimental effect upon the horses running in the delayed Grand National.#LuckOnSunday | @ABE_Dubai pic.twitter.com/JOq7SY4npy
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 16, 2023
"The horse is to the forefront of everything," he said.
"I'm not quite sure the people who were protesting yesterday realise the damage that they were doing.
"The manner they did it was reckless, it was very poor from their side. The experience they were laying upon the horse, owners and trainers was unnecessary," he added.
Russell's own horse Galvin, for example, reportedly had his leg cut by one of the ladders that was thrown over the perimeter fence by the protestors.
Galvin cut himself on one of the ladders thrown over the perimeter fence by protestors when cantering off the course in yesterday's Grand National.
"He's got a nasty cut but the vets will sort him out," says rider @_Davy_Russel_ #LuckOnSunday @ABE_Dubai pic.twitter.com/22JKa8cg6z
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 16, 2023
Sandy Thomson, trainer of Hill Sixteen, the horse that had to be put down after the national, put the blame on the protestors for upsetting his horse.
- Trainer blames protestors for the death of his horse during Grand National
- 'Racehorses are treated like royalty from the day they are born.'
- 'We're going to be turning up outside the gates of Aintree at 9.30.'