At 42 years of age, Davy Russell is still riding winners as if he's in his twenties.
It's a remarkable feat but made even more so when you take into account the injury he endured in October 2020. It led to an 11-month hiatus from the track.
Russell was onboard Doctor Duffy in Limerick for the Munster National when things ended before they started. The horse fell at the very first hurdle.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Corkman recalled the fall and how he felt afterward. "It was a simple fall. I just landed awkwardly and fell on the top of my head and compressed down."
"There wasn't a huge amount of pain, just discomfort and I actually thought it was my shoulder that was broken," he said. The injury ended up being far worse than anticipated.
Russell had surgery for a serious vertebrae injury and thought he had just broken his shoulder. He praised the medical staff and surgeon that operated on him.
"The surgeon said I was in the 10 per cent of people who had that injury who walk again so its good to be in that," Russell told Kieran O'Sullivan.
He said he felt a 'firework' in his thumb after the fall, which may have been a sign of things to come. Thankfully he was able to come out the other end of it.
Russell's Major Turnaround
The Dublin Racing Festival at the weekend saw Davy capture plenty of headlines. He rode outsider Conflated to Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup victory.
It came as a surprise for most given the heavyweight characters in the mix for the race. The likes of Kemboy, Minella Indo, and Frodon were backed ahead of him.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) February 5, 2022
But the last few months for Russell have been nothing short of impressive. He rode Galvin to win the Savills Chase at Leopardstown at the final furlong in December.
He's ridden several winners across the board over the past few months, enjoying victory at the likes of Down Royal, Navan, and Cork.
It wasn't without a tough rehab period to get back on the saddle. "I had an awful problem of lifting my neck up to see the full landscape and it was only a few days before Cheltenham."
"I couldn't see everything I needed to see," he said. "I could only see the horse's tail in front of me and not the broader picture. I didn't renew my licence till a few days before I came back."
The Future For Davy
At 42, his veteran experience is well documented, but it seems like things are aligning for him on the track. If he continues to ride winners, he's happy to still be racing.
"The beauty is now I can retire in the morning happy," he remarked. "It was great to come back and win the Irish Gold Cup but I'm not afraid. My bottle is intact and I have nice horses to ride."
Russell commented on how his old foes, AP McCoy and Barry Geraghty, suggested he was 48 and not 42. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him keep going until then.
Davy Russell, family man through and through!
Watch the full feature at 10.15am on Tuesday on Sky Sports Racing pic.twitter.com/Thhlb6zVVn
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) February 7, 2022
When it comes to still having the fire to keep achieving in racing, Russell has looked far past the track. The NFL's Tom Brady is someone he's looked to as an inspiration.
"Tom Brady is one that's always in the back of my head because that's a tough sport," he said. "He has a target on his back the whole time so he's one that you'd definitely be getting confidence from it."
Brady, who recently retired at 44, achieved career-best seasons in his forties in several statistical records and won two Super Bowls past the 40 mark.
Russell also cited the influence of Michael O'Leary, who has been involved with the Gigginstown House Stud, where a lot of his top winners have come from.
O'Leary urged Russell to increase his riding weight over time and not endure tough weight cuts and stringent plans as he grew that bit older.
"I was doing 10st 6lb or 10st 5lb and that was tough. I was murdering myself really and I realised that something had to change and it was that."
"There's no panicking about rushing in, losing 2lb and then going in a drinking a can of coke to get that sugar rush and put that back on. It's a vicious circle as you are putting it on and bringing it down again."
It's going to be an interesting Cheltenham Festival in March with Russell in form. He's out on three horses on Thursday in Thurles, including Ash Tree Meadow in the BetVictor Rated Novice Hurdle.