Davy Russell makes a breakthrough in Grand Steeplechase de Paris

Chris Cook


The fruitful autumn of Davy Russell’s career continued as he rode Carriacou to win the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, the French equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The race was notable for a strong challenge by Willie Mullins, who fielded five runners in an attempt to be the first trainer from Britain or Ireland to take the prize since 1962, but it produced a different kind of Irish success as Russell enjoyed an easy victory just a month short of his 40th birthday.

Explaining how he came in for the ride, Russell said: “I only got a phone call, I think on Friday, to see if I could do the weight, and I could thankfully. We’ve watched this race in awe from afar. All through my career I always really wanted to take part in it and never got the opportunity until now. I was really pleased just to have a ride in the race.”

Russell was hired by Isabelle Pacault, who becomes the first woman trainer to win the “Grand Steep”. Her first choice was Jonathan Plouganou but he was claimed to ride the joint-favourite Bipolaire, the eventual runner-up. Plouganou was quick to offer his congratulations to Pacault, who hugged the jockey and told him, “I wanted to win with you. I would have won with you.”

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But there was no mistaking her delight at the quality of substitute she was able to use. “Thank you to Davy,” she told a Sky Sports reporter. “He ask me if he can come back. I say maybe, we will see.”

The globetrotting Russell had spent the previous weekend at Percy Warner Park in Tennessee, where he rode the winner of a maiden hurdle. Thanks to his association with Tiger Roll, Russell has won the Grand National for the last two years and also Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle this month, when coming in for the ride aboard Buveur D’Air.

He had only ridden at Auteuil once before but his lack of familiarity with its range of obstacles, exotic by comparison to fences in Britain and Ireland, was no hindrance. “My horse was very clever,” Russell said. “He knew which obstacles he had to jump big and wide and he also knew how to conserve energy. I think the horse was the key more than anything else.

“Every time I felt maybe that I was getting out of position, he’d jump back into position. He settled incredibly well and I didn’t meet any traffic problems.”

That could not be said by the riders of Rathvinden and Pleasant Company, who were both hampered by fallers on their way to being out of contention by the home turn. Burrows Saint travelled smoothly for a long way to sustain Mullins’s hopes but he could not go with the leaders in the closing stages and finished fifth.

British-trained runners filled the first four places in the German 2,000 Guineas, Fox Champion scoring for Richard Hannon and Oisín Murphy. Hannon said the colt would now be aimed at Royal Ascot, for either the Jersey or the St James’s Palace.

Mark Johnston had the second and fourth in the Cologne race, Arctic Sound and Marie’s Diamond, while Great Scot was third for Tom Dascombe.


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