BACK in 2011, Yeadon’s Steven Russell thought life was pretty magnificent as a stable lad with Donald McCain.
A particular high came when Ballabriggs, who he helped look after, won the Grand National.
But now Russell has gone international with the teenager “living the American dream” with Stateside trainer Niall Saville. Russell, 19, is two months into his exciting new venture as a track rider for Saville at Fair Hill Training Centre in Maryland.
The opportunity presented itself when Russell met Saville – originally from Cheshire – on holiday in Florida last December.
Russell is a regular visitor to Florida where his parents have a holiday home. But now the USA could become the teenager’s permanent home with the former Doncaster Northern Racing College pupil high on life as he settles into his American adventure.
Russell, formerly of Benton Park High School, says the increased American prize-money was a major factor in relocating to the USA after his initial work for first Cheshire-based McCain and then Scarcroft-based Richard Whitaker.
The young Yorkshireman is, however, keen to stress he would have had zero chance of progression without learning the ropes with the two northern trainers. And there’s certainly no hiding Russell’s satisfaction with life three years after Ballabriggs’ Grand National triumph with the youngster still pinching himself at living the American dream.
“When I met Niall last December he said ‘you can come and work for us in April if you get your visa sorted’,” recalled Russell who is also a big rugby league fanatic.
“But lots of people say they are going to do it and actually getting round to doing it and having the courage to take the plunge is another story. I’m glad I did because I’m certainly living the American dream!
“There’s no money in racing in Britain and there’s way more opportunities out in America with claiming races for the equivalent of £30,000. You only live once and you’re have to try it while your young. So far it’s lived up to my expectations!
“You get paid a lot more on nearly double the wage you’re on back home and there’s different job titles.
“Here, you are a track rider who just rides and the grooms tack the horse up for you and there’s hot walkers who grab your horse after it’s ridden.”
Talking of titles it was the assistant trainer’s role that Russell was initially keen on fulfilling though the youngster says for now he is simply happy gaining valuable experience.
Russell also says his experience with both McCain and Whitaker was vital.
“I’ve come a long way for 19 since leaving Northern Racing College and working for Donald McCain and Richard Whitaker,” he said.
“Looking back it’s quite amazing and if it wasn’t for a few people from there I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“Donald’s head girl – Dominique – is amazing and inspired me and I learnt so much from her – not to mention Jenny and Cassie as well who taught me how to tack up properly!
“And then there’s my grandad who got me into this great game by taking me all over Yorkshire racing since the age of three.”
Sixteen years on, his grandson is living it up in the USA, working daily from 5.30am until 10.30am after which Russell says he is free to “explore America” from his Philadelphia base.
There’s plenty to see and Russell is not missing life in Blighty, albeit with the odd exception.
“Honestly, apart from the obvious – missing the family – I’m really not missing much!” he laughed. “But I do miss my Sunday dinner of course, that and Leeds Rhinos.”