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Davy Russell booked for Benefficient in Ryanair Chase

Davy Russell has been one of the unsung heroes of the weighing room in recent years. Since scoring on Native Jack in the Cross Country in 2006, the Irishman has been a regular winner at the Festival.

His association with the powerful Gigginstown House Stud ended last year. His big winners for them included Weapon’s Amnesty (2009), First Lieutenant (2011), Carlito Brigante (2011) and Sir Des Champs (2012).

He kept his winning sequence going with Lord Windermere for Jim Culloty in the RSA Chase 12 months ago. He is due to be re-united with that horse in Friday’s Gold Cup.

Russell’s Cheltenham was cut painfully short last year when he suffered a 40 per cent puncture to his lung. That forced him to miss the ride on Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs.

Russell has been handed a great opportunity to make the headlines with Benefficient, currently one of three co-favourites for the Ryanair Chase on Thursday. The gelding pulled off a 20-1 shock in last year’s Jewson Novices’ Chase by beating Dynaste, one of his Ryanair rivals.

The going was good to soft that day so he should not be inconvenienced by the drying ground. Last time out he beat Hidden Cyclone and Arvika Ligeonniere in a Grade 1 Chase over an extended two miles at Leopardstown.

His victory in the Jewson was not the first time he had come to the bookmaker’s rescue. He was a 50-1 shot when he won the Deloitte Novice Hurdle in 2012 and 10-1 outsider of three when winning the Irish Arkle last year.

Ironically, Benefficient is usually the mount of Bryan Cooper who is the new retained rider for Gigginstown. Cooper has been claimed to ride Rathlin after First Lieutenant was switched to the Gold Cup.