Great sport is about character and the way they are remembered is through isolated moments on the biggest of stages. Jockey Davy Russell delivered the moment that will define his career on Saturday when he won the Randox Health sponsored Grand National at Aintree.
Russell delivered a master class in timing and bravery to get his horse, owned by Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, over the finish line a rapidly diminishing few centimetres in front of his nearest rival after four and a half miles of racing over 30 fences, in front of a watching audience of millions.
It was in the moments after though, that Russell showed why he is something special in the sport.
Interviewed on Tiger Roll only seconds after the judge announced him as the winner after a photo finish, Russell immediately dedicated the win to fellow jockey Pat Smullen who was diagnosed with Cancer last month.
Moments later in advance of the presentation, he spoke of the importance of the race. “the one time of year I never minded clearing up the grass after my Dad gave it a cut was around now when I would gather it into fences and ride my own Grand National at home.”
“I have won this race a thousand times, but only in my head, up until now,” he said. Russell has had an emotional few weeks, losing his mother Phyllis on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival and having his fourth child only weeks ago.
In the midst of such momentous life experiences to still find words that capture the moment to perfection cannot be rehearsed, and can only be the mark of a winner in life as well as sport.
The first four horse home were all trained in Ireland, the first time this feat has been achieved.
TV viewing figures for the race are not at hand this morning but while the absolute number has fallen down the years since a peak in the days of Red Rum, this graphic from Nielsen Sports still shows the hold the race has on the public consciousness with an indicator of the percentage of the viewing public tuned in to the biggest moments of the sports and entertainment year in 2017.