TALK about a changing of the guard!
As most of you will know, yesterday, Davy Russell, one of the most talented and canny jump jockeys of all time, hung up his boots.
I’m not going to deny I’ve been an absolute Russell groupie all my racing life.
I often thought Russell would have made the perfect ‘naughty’ rider if anyone wanted to transfer a Dick Francis novel to the world of modern film.
Russell had the skill to do anything, and the mischievousness that meant you never quite knew what he was going to do.
How times change.
Out of the 18 individual riders that were in action in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase we have seen no less than ten retire.
The names include Robbie Power, Noel Fehily, Richard Johnson, Ruby Walsh, Wayne Hutchinson, David Mullins, Lizzie Kelly, Josh Moore, Brian Harding and now Russell.
Also gone recently are, of course, AP McCoy (2015), Barry Geraghty (in 2020) and Paul Carberry (2016).
However you look at it, that’s some change. Like OMG!
You take that amount of talent away from the sport in just a few years and it leaves a big gap to fill.
Now of course not all those I have mentioned were the ‘Messi’ talents of our game, but equally it just shows what has disappeared in a very short time.
Racing fans really do now have to get to grips with a new era of Brian Hughes, Harry Skelton, Harry Cobden, Aidan Coleman and Sam Twiston-Davies.
The Bowen brothers are in the mix as well, of course, as is the outstanding Nico de Boinville.
And in Ireland Paul Townend, Jack Kennedy and Bryan Cooper bang the ability drum.
That said, there are big riding boots to fill.
Russell will be remembered by most for winning two Grand Nationals on Tiger Roll.
But for me it was the way he talked about the game that made him special.
I was lucky enough to interview him many times on the old Attheraces when we showed all the Irish racing, and there was never a moment he didn’t leave me fascinated.
On a Cheltenham preview night he was gold teamed up with Tony Mullins. I did plenty of those with both of them. Memories I will never forget.
Thank you, Davy. You are unique.
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