Britain’s golden couple of the weighing room, Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand, bid to cap a phenomenal year in the saddle when they take on 10 of the world’s top jockeys in the Longines International Jockeys’ Challenge at Happy Valley on Wednesday.
Doyle’s season has included a first Royal Ascot winner, a Champions Day double that saw a first Group One success, a record five winners at Windsor, breaking her own female jockeys’ record of winners in a year, being named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year and being nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Not to be outdone, Marquand had his first Group One wins this year and won his first Classic aboard Galileo Chrome in the St Leger on the way to finishing third in the jockeys’ championship – one place ahead of his partner.
Now they take on the likes of Hong Kong specialists Zac Purton and Joao Moreira in their back yard, as well as familiar foes such as Ryan Moore and William Buick in the four-race challenge.
Doyle cannot wait to get in the plate, although she knows with no previous experience of the track she is going to need luck on her side.
“I’ve got some good rides on paper. You need a bit of luck over here because the margins are fine, but hopefully I’ll have a good experience and see how we go,” she said.
“We’re not allowed out of our rooms until we race. We’ve had to quarantine since we’ve been here.
“We arrived on Monday and the journey was all good. We got to go in a private jet and were looked after pretty well, but we had to wait six hours at the other side of the airport for our Covid results. That was annoying, but that’s how it is.
“It’s a massive honour to be riding out here and I hope it’s not the first and last time.”
Doyle’s best chance looks to be on the once-raced winner Harmony N Blessed in the fourth and final leg of the series, with trainer David Hayes is expecting a big run from the four-year-old.
“He’s very professional and he did everything right at Sha Tin,” he said.
“He looks like he likes the Valley. I know he hasn’t raced there, but his trials have been excellent. You never know until they race, but he’s a pretty straightforward horse. He should be OK.
“He’s probably eating better now than he was before the first run, so that’s a good sign.
“It’s a nice competitive race. Good step up, light weight so hopefully he can handle it.”
The dual champion trainer has full confidence in Doyle’s ability.
“Her record overseas is too good to be concerned about having her on the horse. I think she’ll do a good job,” he said.
Doyle’s other mounts in the competition are Happily Friends, Universal Go Go and Sunny Lad.
Marquand’s four rides are Very Sweet Orange, Nunchuks, Surrealism and Wind N Grass, and he hopes he and Doyle can get their share of the spoils.
“Fingers crossed we can walk away with a winner or two apiece,” Marquand.
“Some of the tracks in Australia aren’t too dissimilar (to Happy Valley) with the tightness and the ground being generally being a little bit quicker than in England.
“But we’ve got tight tracks in England like Chester. It’s on another level to over here perhaps.
“Happy Valley is certainly a different track. It’s a test of a jockey and a horse being such a sharp, almost speed-orientated track. So, while it will be a little bit different, very (much) looking forward to tackling it with a great book of ides for both of us.”