At the age of 43, you can be forgiven for nursing a bad back and a few aches and pains. For Davy Russell, coming out of retirement for Gordon Elliott’s team to temporarily fill-in for the injured Jack Kennedy, broken bones and aching joints were par for the course over a two-decade long career.
The Irishman has admitted he was happily retired, but a sense of duty got him up off the sofa – victories aboard The Mighty Potter and The Goffer at the Dublin Racing Festival vindication of his decision.
A heavy fall at Leopardstown left Russell with such a bad back that it affected his subsequent rides at the Cheltenham Festival, and with Kennedy nearing full fitness it’s possible that the Grand National will be his final, final race.
His likely mount for the Aintree showpiece will be Galvin, aboard whom he has enjoyed famous days like a win in the Savills Chase, where they pipped subsequent Gold Cup champion A Plus Tard to the £85,000 top prize. Russell stated,
It’s probably not ideal finishing up the way Cheltenham went so it would be nice, especially for Ronnie Bartlett [Galvin’s owner] and the horse has been so good to me over the years, to give it a rattle.
Galvin has never gone beyond four miles before, but trainer, Gordon Elliott, believes he can stay the course and will form a key part of the Cullentra assault on Aintree’s biggest race, with Delta Work, Fury Road and Escaria Ten other eye-catchers in the mix.
But 20/1 hope Galvin would be a particularly popular winner – not least because Russell will be in the saddle. Will he ride on beyond the Grand National, though? “I’d like to finish on a high anyway, wherever that may be,” he commented. “I’ve had a marvellous career and loved every second of it, and I’d just like to finish with a smile on my face.”
Elliott, Russell and Galvin will face a stern test when the Grand National gets underway on April 15. The bookmakers’ favourite is Cheltenham Festival winner Corach Rambler, who has been fairly treated by the handicapper and whom Lucinda Russell has confirmed is looking ‘very fit’ and well after his Prestbury Park exploits.
Corach Rambler would be only the third Grand National champion from Scotland, with one of the others – One For Arthur – also trained by Russell. Defending champion, Noble Yeats, and staying powerhouse, Delta Work, are amongst the other market principles, while former football manager, Harry Redknapp, will be hoping that his entry can upset the odds.
Back on the Lash is a 66/1 shot for the Grand National, and while he is yet to officially make it onto the card – he will need five more runners to be scratched to make the final 40 – the hope is that a heavy racing schedule over the Easter weekend could make that happen.
A winner at Cheltenham in January, Back on the Lash has twice been pulled up in the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but connections believe there is more to come from the nine-year-old. Trainer, Martin Keighley, said:
Cross-country horses have a good strike rate in the National. He’s in good form, off a light weight so hopefully can put a good show in.
Redknapp will be looking to emulate the achievements of another football manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who once enjoyed a trio of winners on the opening day of the 2021 Grand National Festival.