Classic heroine Doyle has risen to the top with hard work and humility

Hollie Doyle’s rise to Classic-winning jockey may seem meteoric, but it has actually been far from it.

Throughout the 25-year-old’s still fledgling yet stellar career, she has exuded the old-fashioned virtues of hard work and humility, and it is only over the past three seasons her career has really reached new heights.

On Sunday she recorded yet another landmark, with her first Classic victory aboard Nashwa in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly.

In 2019 Doyle rode 116 winners in Britain – 10 more than previously achieved by any female jockey.

In 2020 she reached a total of 151 and by October 2021 she had already passed that figure, eventually ending up with 172 for the year.

Glen Shiel and Hollie Doyle (centre) struck Group One gold at Ascot
Glen Shiel and Hollie Doyle (centre) struck Group One gold at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Yet it is not just the quantity but quality of her successes on the track which has thrust her front and centre in the racing limelight and rightly attracted wider acclaim.

In 2020 there was a first Group One victory on Glen Shiel in the Qipco British Champion Sprint Stakes at Ascot – and a perfect moment when her personality shone through every bit as much as her talent.

Close-up broadcast and print pictures showed the dawning, delighted realisation on her face, as the result of the photo finish was announced in her favour.

Her link with Alan King’s star stayer Trueshan has seen her add to her top-level tally too, with victory in the Goodwood Cup of 2021 as well as a famous Prix du Cadran success over Stradivarius.

Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand in the Queen's colours on Derby Day
Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand in the Queen’s colours on Derby Day (John Walton/PA)

Doyle is a gem for racing, and by priceless coincidence she is one half of the sport’s golden couple – because amid her brilliant achievements, her husband and fellow jockey Tom Marquand is operating at an even higher level.

That Champions Day at Ascot saw both of them ride doubles – and, of course, both were Group One winners to boot as they dominated and lit up one of Flat racing’s biggest events of the year.

For Marquand, it came less than a month after he had won his first Classic on Galileo Chrome in the St Leger at Doncaster.

For both, there is a charm to complement the regularity with which they win – and Marquand’s admission the following morning that they had burst into a fit of mutually incredulous giggles as they started the drive back home was perfection.

“After racing we got in the car and looked at each other and started laughing – it’s ridiculous really,” he said.

For both it is the result of huge talent and an enduring enthusiasm.

Doyle’s very first ride came at the age of 17. But the start of the journey dates back much further, to when she first sat on a horse at 18 months old.

Her father Mark rode over jumps and on the Flat as well as training point-to-pointers, and her mother Caroline took part in Arab racing on horses bred by her grandmother.

Doyle soon joined the Radnor and Hereford Pony Club – where four-time National Hunt champion jockey Richard Johnson previously learned and honed his young skills – and while excelling in those ranks, she met Marquand.

Via the British Racing School at Newmarket and then as an apprentice, she has embarked on a remarkable rise through the ranks.

Hollie Doyle was third in the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Hollie Doyle was third in the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year (Peter Byrne/PA)

In 2020, the record-breaking jockey with the diminutive frame made ever more giant strides – riding her first Royal Ascot winner, completing a near 900-1 five-timer at Windsor in August, and going global too with her first trip to the Breeders’ Cup and then adding a winner in Hong Kong’s International Jockeys’ Championship.

She had her first rides for Aidan O’Brien last year, and John Gosden had no hesitation in recommending to Nashwa’s owner Imad Al Sagar that she be his retained jockey.

Her third place behind Formula One ace Lewis Hamilton in the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award further underlines the groundswell of admiration and support for Doyle, who has the ability to cut through outside the racing bubble, too.

Throughout, it is a racing certainty that her unaffected, winning smile has remained constant and nobody begrudges her any of the success she gains – a sure sign that what you see with Hollie Doyle is exactly what you get.

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