Jockey Sheldon Russell “really close” to return to races

Champion Maryland jockey Sheldon Russell is nearing a return to the races more than nine months after being hurt in a pre-race spill at Laurel Park.

“He’s doing great,” Russell’s agent Marty Leonard said. “He’s been getting back on horses for a couple weeks now and feeling good. He’s really close to returning to riding.”

The 34-year-old Russell was originally hurt last Sept. 9 when 2-year-old Maryland-bred filly Little Bit of That got spooked and reared heading to the track before what was to be her career debut. Russell was thrown and landed on his right foot, toes-first, and was diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury, involving both the bones and ligaments in the middle part of his foot.

Russell underwent successful surgery to repair the injury and, following a long recovery and rehab, began getting on horses again in April but was back on the sidelines after breaking his collarbone during morning training.

“He was probably about a week away from returning when that happened, so it was another minor setback,” Leonard said. “It was about an eight to 10-week injury.”

Russell is married to Brittany Russell, leading trainer this year during Laurel’s spring stand as well as the subsequent Preakness Meet at historic Pimlico Race Course. Ironically, it was Little Bit of That’s victory on Mother’s Day, May 8, that clinched the mom-of-two’s first meet championship.

At the time of his injury last fall, Russell led all jockeys in Maryland in purses earned and was second in wins. He has won more than 1,500 races and $43 million in purses since 2007, overcoming several injuries during his career.

“He’s gone through this a few times. He’s resilient and relentless, he really is,” Leonard said. “We’re just going day by day and we’re going to let him tell us when he’s ready to go. When he’s ready to go, I’m sure we’ll have a horse to get on.”

  • Brittany Russell, Sheldon Russell and family celebrate a Laurel meet training title. Photo Jim McCue.
  • Thumbs up for leading rider Sheldon Russell. Photo Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.
  • Jockey Sheldon Russell. Photo Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.
  • Brittany Trimble and Sheldon Russell kiss after Russell and the Trimble-trained Always won a maiden race.
  • Sheldon Russell, all smiles after winning aboard Wild Chatter.
  • Sheldon Russell. Photo by The Racing Biz.
  • Sheldon Russell and Claudio Gonzalez. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.