In recent seasons, David Niall ‘Davy’ Russell has become a household name on both sides of the Irish Sea, thanks, in large part, to his association with Tiger Roll, who won the Grand National in both 2018 and 2019. However, Russell, who turns 40 in 2019, was hardly an oversight sensation. He first won the National at his fourteenth attempt but, by that stage, he had already won the Irish jump jockeys’ championship twice, in 2011/12 and 2012/13 – and would win it again in 2017/18, two weeks after his National triumph – and ridden 22 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including Lord Windermere in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2014.
A native of Co. Cork in southwest Ireland, Russell was recruited, from the amateur ranks, to join Wexford-born trainer Ferdy Murphy, based in West Witton, North Yorkshire in 2002. He rode his first winner as a professional on Inn Antique, trained by Murphy, at Sedgefield in November that year. However, despite no little success in Britain, including winning the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park and finishing second to Best Mate in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Truckers Tavern, Russell returned to Ireland just over a year later.
Russell subsequently rode for Co. Tipperary trainer Edward O’Grady and as a freelance jockey, during which time he rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Native Jack, in the Glenfarclas Country Chase in 2006. In September, 2007, Russell became stable jockey to Gigginstown House Stud and, although that position lasted only until December, 2013, rode at least one winner at the Cheltenham Festival – including Tiger Roll, having just his third start, in the Triumph Hurdle in 2014 – up to, and including, 2018. Indeed, in 2018, Russell rode four winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including a 377/1 treble on the penultimate day, to edge out compatriot Jack Hughes and win the Holland Leading Jockey Award for the first time.