Gordon Elliott is still hoping Jack Kennedy will be fit in time to return at the Cheltenham Festival – but admits it will come "down to the wire".
Kennedy has been on the sidelines with a broken leg since early January, but immediately stated his intention to return in time for the big meeting.
As a result of his injury, Davy Russell, who had only recently announced his retirement, reversed that decision to come back and ride as first choice for Elliott, principally for last weekend's Dublin Racing Festival at which he partnered Mighty Potter to Grade One glory.
"We’re keeping everything crossed Jack will be back. He’s going to the hospital on Thursday and he’s going to Dubai then for a week for a bit of sun," said Elliott.
"It’ll be tight and he knows that – it’ll be down to the wire. But if he’s back he’ll be riding everything. He’s number one now and all these horses are waiting for him to come back.
"I’d say for Jack’s own peace of mind he’d like to ride a day (before Cheltenham). If he’s not coming back on the Sunday before he’s not going to ride on the Tuesday, that’s the way I’m looking at it.
"Jack has been unlucky with injuries, but saying that he’s only 22 years of age and he’s ridden 36 or 37 Grade One winners.
"He came to Leopardstown on Sunday and was in the ring with the horses and out on the track. He’s got a great attitude. All jockeys get falls and to have horses to come back and ride is very important and he has the backing of me.
"People will say he’s been unlucky to break his leg four or five times, but the fall he got off that horse the other day he’s lucky he didn’t break his neck – it was a haymaker."
Russell himself is taking a few days to recover from a fall at Leopardstown on Sunday.
"Davy got a couple of bruised ribs the other day and he’s a bit sore, but Davy is made of steel," said Elliott.
"If it was six months’ time or three months’ time, the conversation with Davy (coming out of retirement) would never have happened. Jordan (Gainford) and Sam (Ewing) would have stepped straight in, but they’re two young lads who are very talented riders and world-class jockeys and I just felt they could do with a bit more time.
"If anything happened to Davy or Jack they’d be riding all the horses, but I was just trying to do the right thing for them and bring them along quietly.
"Cheltenham is a daunting place and you need a big attitude to go over there and ride."
When asked if there was a possibility both Kennedy and Russell could ride at Cheltenham, Elliott added: "I’d say whatever happens Davy will be over riding out for us on a morning and if anything happens to Jack, Davy will be there to pick up the pieces, but he knows he’s keeping the seat warm for him.
"I haven’t even had the conversation with Davy about it (riding at Cheltenham). At the moment we don’t know if Jack is going to be back so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
"Myself and Davy talk most days and I’ve been friends with him since I was 16 or 17. Credit to the man for him to step back in and I’m sure he’ll be in Cheltenham."
In other news, Elliott is confident Conflated is "in the mix" for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup after deciding against bidding for back-to-back victories in Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last weekend.
The nine-year-old was a surprise winner of the Dublin Racing Festival feature 12 months ago, but proved that was no fluke by running well before falling in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham before pushing Clan Des Obeaux close in the Aintree Bowl.
Following a promising comeback run at Down Royal in the autumn, Conflated dominated Leopardstown's Savills Chase over the Christmas period, but Elliott elected to keep his powder dry for the blue riband in the Cotswolds next month.
The Cullentra handler admitted he was heartened to see Fury Road - third behind Conflated over the festive period - finish a similar distance behind Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs when third again on Saturday.
"We decided not to run him in the Irish Gold Cup and he'll go to Cheltenham fresh and well," he said.
"I suppose the fact that Fury Road led over the last the other day would give me hope that Conflated could run a good race in Cheltenham.
"I probably ran him in the wrong race last year going for the Ryanair. The way he ran in Aintree last season and the way he ran in Leopardstown the last day, I think the Gold Cup will suit him."