Davy Russell: 'Nothing Has Made Me More Nervous Than Dancing With The Stars'

Davy Russell | Racingfotos.com


Legendary jumps jockey Davy Russell says he hasn't thought about emulating Nina Carberry's achievements in flying the flag for racing by winning Ireland's version of Dancing With The Stars and revealed that riding in the Grand National or the Gold Cup does not compare to the nerves that come with competing on the show. 

Russell, who bowed out from the saddle in December 2022 before briefly returning to race-riding for his long-time ally Gordon Elliott after Jack Kennedy broke his leg the following January, has heaped praise on his dancing coach Kylee Vincent. 

He explained, “I've a brilliant teacher in Kylee. She has an outstanding way of coaxing me into being able to do the dances. I have no step now. I couldn't dance a step if my life depended on it before the show. It's amazing how my coach can turn somebody like me around within the space of a week to be somewhat reasonable at dancing. A lot of the credit goes to her.”

Carberry, widely considered one of the greatest amateur riders of all time, famously won the competition in 2022 after hanging up her saddle four years previously. Russell explained that, while he consulted Carberry before accepting the invitation to take part in the competition, nothing could have prepared him for the amount of work that goes into preparing for each live show. 

He said, “Nina was obviously very supportive of me because not only did she do it but she also won it. The rest of the lads were laughing at me. They thought it would be great craic of a Sunday evening watching me go and make an eejit of myself on National television. 

Thankfully, it's gone the other way around. Now they are tuning in on the Sunday night to see how I get on and to support me. But come here, I was on the same page as them when I started-I'm pleasantly surprised by how it's going but the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes is phenomenal.”

What's making Russell's progression on the reality television series all the more impressive is that the Cork native is balancing practicing along with raising a young family and tending to over 50 horses on his farm.

However, Russell admitted to being put to the pin of his collar at present and is desperately seeking a full-time worker to help out at the burgeoning National Hunt breeding and pinhooking operation.

“It's very hard at the moment,” he said. “I have great help at home but it's not easy. This week took its toll because Edelle [Russell's wife] was away and I am down a member of staff on the farm. I'm actually in dire need of somebody coming on board. 

“We've 15 broodmares on the farm. All of them bar one are National Hunt-bred. On top of the 15 mares, we have their progeny coming through-foals, yearlings, two-year-olds and three-year-olds so we've well over 50 horses here. It's a full-time job in itself.”

He added, “I had somebody working with me and they let me down. It seems to be a common theme in the industry at the moment. Nobody seems to have any regard for anyone and staff seem to just jump around. It's very hard to get somebody to stay in the one place. That's my experience anyway. I would love if somebody came to me and wanted to get involved in the place. Whether that was buying into a mare or pinhooking foals along with working here full-time, I don't know. I'd be open to whatever. Like, if I was getting a few quid on something, I'd love to see the person working for me get a few quid as well. So, I'm open to anything really.”

Russell's Whitebarn Stud has enjoyed some decent paydays in recent times but few will top last year's result at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale when a Cima de Triomphe (Ire) gelding who was bought for just €5,500 on behalf of his kids rocked into €54,000 at the premier store sale. 

He reflected, “I had a great year. A lot of that would be down to Peter Vaughan of Moanmore Stables. I do a lot of work with Peter. My kids had an excellent year as well. They sold a Cima de Triomphe gelding for €54,000. They started off with two cows and we put them in calf. Out of that, Peter bought them a yearling and they sold him and got a few quid but nothing major, just a couple of grand profit. I gave €5,500 for the Cima de Triomphe horse for them in Osarus in France and then they got €54,000 for him at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale last year so they were over the moon with that.”

Russell has also dipped his toe in the breeze-up game from time to time through his association with the Vaughans but it was a certain Siyouni (Fr) filly by the name of Expressiy (Fr) who gave him one of his most memorable results in that sphere back in 2017 when selling for €260,000 at Arqana. 

“I am involved in the breeze-ups but my involvement doesn't extend beyond being an investor. Peter and Patrick Vaughan do all the work with the breeze-up horses. We bought a Bolt d'Oro horse in America last year and he seems to be going quite well. I had a lovely Not This Time horse last year but we just about wiped our nose with him at the Dubai Breeze-Up Sale.”

He added, “It's very funny actually, I got a great touch with a Siyouni filly at Arqana a few years ago. I was heading out for a beginners' chase on a 10-1 shot at Kilbeggan as the filly was going through the ring. Lorcan Wyer [clerk of the course] was telling me to get a move on but, as this filly was rocking into €200,000, I told him I wasn't going anywhere. 

“She made €260,000 in the end. I had her with John Cullinan and I really enjoyed the experience. The filly [Expressiy] turned out to be okay, too, as she went and got black-type for Godolphin. I got down to post in time for the beginners' chase on Burndown (Ire) (Presenting {Ire}) and, while he could only finish third, it ended up being an enjoyable day!”

The decorated rider, who partnered his first winner 25 years ago and will forever be associated with horses like Tiger Roll, Weapon's Amnesty and more, can be backed at 10-1 to win the competition outright. However, the aim is a simple one heading into this Sunday's performance: don't mess up. 

“I just don't want to f*** up,” Russell said. “I built my career on that mindset. I used to go to Cheltenham with one thing on my mind and that was to not f*** up. The only way of doing that is by putting in the work but it's a lot of work to do. 

“I have an awful problem learning the steps and then, when I learn the steps, I then have to put it to music and then you have to have your facial expressions ready as well. To do all of that in six days and then to walk out live on television and bang, get it out in one go, it's not easy.”

He added, “All of my life, nothing ever made me nervous. Riding any horse in any of those big races never made me nervous. But the show two weeks ago, I have never felt nerves like that. I was shaking like a leaf. Maybe it was stepping into the unknown that made me nervous, I don't know. Thankfully this week was a bit more comfortable and I am starting to enjoy it now.”

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