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Russell is left disgusted at losing ride on Back In Front.

Byline: TONY O'HEHIR

DAVY RUSSELL yesterday said he was ``disgusted'' at being jocked off leading Smurfit Champion Hurdle hope Back In Front by trainer Edward O'Grady.

R ussell has partnered O'Grady's charge in both his starts this season - including to victory in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham - but Ruby Walsh will be aboard the eight-year-old for the first time at Cheltenham.

``I'm disgusted, really,'' R ussell said on At The Races. ``It's just one of those things - it's the ups and downs.

``I wasn't given any reason for it, but Ruby was available and Ruby rides him - that's it,'' Russell added.

Back In Front was second to Champion Hurdle favourite Harchibald in the Morgiana Hurdle in November before going one better to claim the Bula in December.

O'Grady's runner missed the Festival last year but won the 2003 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and Russell believes he will have every chance this time around at the Festival.

``He loves the course,'' R ussell said. ``Any horse who runs well on the track has to be a danger. He loves Cheltenham - his record there is second to none, and he's in great order.''

It was a dramatic day all round for Russell as he was taken to Navan Hospital for x-rays following a fall from Coast To Coast - trained by O'Grady - in the three-mile novice chase.

Turf Club medical officer Dr Walter Halley said: ``Davy wasn't concussed but got a nasty fall and is suffering a lot of pain to his left elbow and wrist. He will have a full body x-ray and is stood down for at least 48 hours, depending on what the x-rays show.''

In other Champion Hurdle news, Michael O'Brien said yesterday that Saturday's Totesport Trophy winner Essex has every chance of making the necessary improvement to be a factor at the Festival.

The trainer said: ``I was delighted with Essex's performance. I thought he had improved quite a bit since winning the Pierse Hurdle and I'd be reasonably confident that he'll improve again between now and Cheltenham.

``He's shown that he gets two miles really well and a stronger pace will suit him even better. He should also stay further, but the Champion Hurdle is the only race for him and if we're happier with him nearer the time he'll run.''

With Geraghty committed to Macs Joy for the Champion Hurdle, another jockey needs to be found for Essex and, while David Casey looks an obvious contender, O'Brien intends biding his time before confirming a rider.

He said: ``Geraghty, Paul Carberry and Ruby Walsh are all booked up, but we've still got more than four weeks to go, so we'll wait and see.''

Meade yesterday confirmed the County Hurdle as the target for Power Elite, who came home fifth in the Newbury race.

``I was quite pleased with his run considering he had not raced for a long time, and the County looks the obvious race for him,'' he said.

CAPTION(S):

Davy Russell and Back In Front on their way to victory in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham in December; now the ride goes to Ruby Walsh
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2005
Words:520
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