Davy Russell had to do with minor honors in his long-awaited return to action at Downpatrick.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National winning runner had been out of the game since he dislocated and fractured his vertebrae in a first hurdle fall at Munster National in Limerick last October aboard Doctor Duffy.
The 42-year-old initially hoped to return in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March, but eventually lost his race to time to be fit for the masterpiece reunion and ended up out of action for just over 11 months.
Hopes were high that Russell could make a winning comeback aboard Gordon Elliott’s 7-4 favorite The Greek in Downpatrick’s first Bill McIlroy Bookmaker Maiden Hurdle, but he had to settle for second place behind the 15-length winner. by Henry of Bromhead, Serenity Grove.
“Yeah, it’s great (buzz) and great to be back,” the jockey said afterward.
“I have been very successful here and I enjoy coming here, the people are very good to me.”
Russell seemed likely to do better in his only other race of the day, after leading Elliott-trained The Abbey to the lead in the race to the second home fence in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginner Chase.
But while the 11-2 opportunity jumped the last hurdle up front, it was eventually run over by his stablemate, Hurricane Georgie, and 5-pound claimant Jordan Gainford.
Eliott said, “I’d say the weight hit the hill (at The Abbey).
“Jordan gave the winner a good ride and she jumped good. That was great.
“She was solid over the hurdles, but this race was made for her because she was getting all the permits.”
Russell will head to Navan on Saturday to ride Chemical Energy, and Coach Carter will be his only ride on the opening afternoon of the Harvest Festival in Listowel on Sunday.