Sheldon Russell set for Friday return

by | Apr 20, 2017 | Breaking, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing

Sheldon Russell in 2015. Photo by The Racing Biz.

Sheldon Russell in 2015. Photo by The Racing Biz.

From a Maryland Jockey Club release

Three days shy of seven months since his last race, journeyman Sheldon Russell is ready to launch his latest comeback with three mounts on Friday’s 10-race program at Laurel Park.

Russell, 29, is named on 4-year-old gelding Impressive Way in the second race and 3-year-old filly Thirst for Truth in the seventh, both for trainer Cal Lynch, as well as Hamilton Smith-trained 4-year-old gelding Buzz Lite in the sixth.

Maryland’s leading rider in 2011 and a six-time meet champion at Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, Russell is also named on five horses Saturday including 3-year-old filly Star Super in the $125,000 Weber City Miss (Race 4) and 4-year-old ridgling Marengo Road in the $75,000 Henry S. Clark (Race 10).

“It’s been a long time,” Russell said. “I’ve been very busy in the mornings working for a lot of nice outfits and I’m just very excited to get back into the swing of things.”

Russell said he ruptured the radial collateral ligament in his right hand after being thrown when multiple stakes-winner Dannhauser broke down approaching the far turn of the Bert Allen Stakes Sept. 24 on Commonwealth Day at Laurel.

After initially being fitted with a cast for six weeks, surgery was required in December to repair the injury. Russell took some time away to visit family and friends in South Africa before returning to Maryland to continue therapy, first getting on horses again in early March.

“It’s just taken so long to heal. At first we didn’t think it was as bad as what it turned out to be. I had it in a cast for six weeks and when it came out of the cast it still wasn’t healed, so I was left with no choice but to get surgery,” Russell said. “I had to wait two or three weeks to get the surgery but once I got the surgery we were back on the road to recovery. Even then, it took four months after surgery for it to fully heal and for me to be getting back on horses.”

His latest injury came just eight weeks into Russell’s comeback from a torn labrum and broken shoulder suffered in a training accident in November 2015. He won 16 of 138 mounts to push his career win total over 1,050.

“With all the bones that I’ve broken I thought, ‘OK, it’s just my hand. It wasn’t too painful this time.’ But looking back it’s probably the second-longest I’ve been on the shelf,” he said. “I definitely need my hands, so I sort of had to give it the extra time. As soon as I got the surgery I felt a lot better. I felt straightaway that they had stabilized the tendon and as soon as began physical therapy I could see the results and that we were going to make a full recovery. I didn’t really know until they cut the cast off.”

Russell has ranked among Maryland’s leading riders since his arrival in 2007, and has also endured a multitude of injuries including broken ribs and a punctured lung in 2015, a broken foot in 2013, broken ribs in 2010, a broken wrist in 2008 and fractured vertebrae in 2007 and 2008.

“It’s something I enjoy doing. I’ve got a passion for horse racing. It’s my dream,” he said. “It’s sort of everyone’s dream that’s involved in horse racing, so the plan was always to come back. Unfortunately I had to give it extra time but physically I feel pretty good right now. I’m just very fortunate that people have given me the chance. It’s just nice to come off the layoff and be given an opportunity straight away.”