TOP Irish jockey Davy Russell will miss the Cheltenham Festival.
The 41-year-old was confident of a return in time from a broken neck but after meeting his surgeon and trainer Gordon Elliott, he has admitted defeat.
Russell fell at the first fence in the Munster National last October and has been on the sidelines since.
He suffered a broken neck in two places and a dislocation and was then put through an intense rehab programme.
Just last week Envoi Allen and Tiger Roll's regular partner said he'd hoped to be back before the Festival.
But his target could now be Aintree and a shot at a third Grand National with the legendary Tiger Roll.
Russell said in a statement: "I met with my surgeon earlier today and, although he is delighted with the progress I have made, he feels I am not quite where I should be in order to ride at Cheltenham next month.
"It is frustrating as I feel I have made giant strides in recent weeks on the road to recovery.
"However, after talking things through with Gordon, we both feel it is sensible for me to follow advice and miss Cheltenham as it is only weeks away.
"To ride the horses of the calibre of Envoi Allen you have to be 100% fit and I would be doing the team a disservice to ride when I'm not ready.
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"Obviously, it is hugely disappointing, but it is important to make the call early.
"I will continue to work hard on my recovery and look forward to getting back in the saddle the following month.
"I remain so grateful for all the extraordinary medical attention I have received and thank you for all your lovely messages of support."
Jockey Jack Kennedy has stepped in to ride Envoi Allen since Russell's fall and is likely to be called up once more.
Elliott's unbeaten chaser remains the red-hot odds-on favourite for the Marsh Novices' Chase and many people's idea of the 'Festival banker'.
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