DAVY RUSSELL had bolts drilled into his head as part of his recovery from a horror fall.
He broke his neck and was urged to retire by racing tycoon and Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.
But incredibly, the two-time Grand National winner on Tiger Roll is set for a blockbuster return to action at Cheltenham.
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Russell, 41, who won the Aintree showpiece two years running on Tiger Roll from 2018, fell at the first in last October's Munster National at Limerick.
His mount Doctor Duffy, a 5-1 chance, collided with a rival and fell, flinging Russell to the ground in the process.
Recovery has been brutal.
After breaking his C6 and C7 vertebrae and dislocating his T1 he needed weights hung off his head and was subjected to 'woeful pain' in rehab.
But it all appears to be worth it as he is on track to return at Jump racing's biggest meet in a month's time.
Russell, who is due to have a final scan on his neck this week, told the Irish Times: "I’m a little bit caught up with Covid as the surgeons and hospitals aren’t that inclined to see me.
"But I’m going to make a decision then about the return and when it is going to be.
"I would be more comfortable riding for a fortnight before I go to Cheltenham.
"I’d hate to have to go to Cheltenham blind. But I’d very confident I will be in Cheltenham.
"I’m riding out every day. We have a little filly here at home that needs a bit of riding out so I’m riding every day.
"I’ve ridden bits of work, I’ve schooled as well, so everything is where it’s supposed to be."
Should a fit and firing Russell get the OK from doctors then he can expect to take the mount of Envoi Allen.
The hugely exciting Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old is a 3-1 shot for the Arkle and Novices' Chase while a strong 4-5 shot for the Marsh Novices' Chase on the Thursday.
Victory would be sweet reward for a punishing recovery schedule.
Describing what he went through, Russell said: "They put me in traction and that was horrific.
"They drilled bolts into my head and hung a weight off my head to stretch it so the T1 would go back into place.
"Every hour they would take an X-ray and add more weight. I was telling them ‘lads this is wrong, I’m in woeful pain.’
"They were asking where and I was saying the groin and hip area. They said once it’s not your neck, you’re fine."
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