In a shock announcement that appears to have caught everyone in the racing world by surprise, James Doyle was yesterday appointed retained rider for Khalid Abdullah’s horses racing in Britain. He has a debut of fire in the Solario Stakes at Sandown tomorrow.
Doyle had been thinking of giving up racing at the point he gained the position as stable jockey to Roger Charlton last year. That marked a turning point, and since then the 25 year old jockey has partnered the winner home in four Group 1 races; Cityscape, owned by Abdullah, in the Dubai Duty Free in March last year, and three races on board Al Kazeem this summer.
Those rides clearly caught the eye of the Juddmonte team, and let to the offer of a retainer, the first the organisation has had since their seven year association with Richard Hughes ended in 2007. Speaking about his appointment in a statement to Press Association Sport, Doyle said: “It's a great honour to be asked to ride for such a world-renowned operation like Juddmonte. However, I would not be in this fortunate position if it had not been for such wonderful support from Roger Charlton and his other owners, in particular Mr (John) Deer, who gave me the chance to ride a truly great horse in Al Kazeem.
I've already ridden some exceptional horses for Prince Khalid, including Cityscape, who provided a launching pad for my career in winning in Dubai. I hope to repay the faith he has shown in handing me one of the best appointments in world racing that a jockey can have.”
Doyle could hardly have a more high profile start, as he will be on board Kingman, favourite for next season’s 2,000 Guineas, in his first ride for his new boss. In theory that should be a straightforward task; the ease of his win in a Newmarket maiden in June has frightened away many horses, and he has only three rivals. But you never know in racing.
It looks as though Doyle will still be available to ride Al Kazeem for the remainder of this season, as there are no Abdullah horses entered in the Irish Champion Stakes or the Arc, the most likely races for Roger Charlton colt. It’s hard to imagine that he and owner John Deer would want to break up that successful pairing.
The move does, though, mean a change for other jockeys who have benefited from having Khalid Abdullah’s horses in the stables where they are based, most notably Tom Queally, Ryan Moore and William Buick, who between them have ridden 650 times for the owner over the past five years, with 165 of those rides producing winners. For Queally in particular, the news will come as a major blow. The 92 winners he has ridden for Abdullah represent 20% of his winners over that period.
No doubt there will be a rapid assessment of Doyle after tomorrow’s race. Whatever the outcome, his career is certainly on a rapid upward curve, and his new position is sure to enhance his standing further.