Hollie Doyle hoping to seize Classic chance and make history at Epsom

Hollie Doyle describes Nashwa as “everything you want in a racehorse” ahead of her bid for another slice of history in Friday’s Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.

Doyle is well used to breaking boundaries at this stage, with her tally of 152 winners in 2021 surpassing her own record of winners in a calendar year for a female jockey.

She has also ridden two five-timers, became the first woman to be successful on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot and finished third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

Doyle now appears to have her best chance yet of becoming the first woman to ride a British Classic winner aboard Nashwa, who is second in the betting behind stablemate Emily Upjohn.

Taking inspiration from Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning jockey Rachael Blackmore, Doyle admits it would be a huge moment for women in sport if she can strike Classic gold.

Rachael Blackmore after winning the Grand National on Minella Times
Rachael Blackmore after winning the Grand National on Minella Times (Tim Goode/PA)

“It would be an absolute dream come true. You’re always looking to progress throughout your career and it would be another box ticked,” she said.

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“Like Rachael Blackmore winning the Grand National, winning a British Classic is something I dream of doing over the next 10 years or so, so if it could happen on Friday it would be great.

“Look at the reaction there was when Rachael won the Grand National. It’s one of the toughest horse races in the world to win and she did that, so if I could win a British Classic it would be a dream come true for me personally and could hopefully inspire other women to get into the sport.

“It’s a great opportunity to get a ride with a live chance.”

Seen by many as a trailblazer, Doyle has become accustomed to the extra attention that generates and insists she is fully focussed about the task in hand.

“I’m fairly used to it now. Every time I’ve done something new this is what happens, which is great,” said Doyle in a Qipco British Champions Series Zoom call on Monday.

“I’m used to it and take it all in my stride. Ultimately I’m a jockey and I’ve got a job to do, that’s how I approach it.”

Nashwa certainly brings strong claims to the table, having built on the promise of a third-placed finish at Newmarket on her sole juvenile start with impressive wins at Haydock and Newbury this spring.

The one question that remains unanswered ahead of her appearance at Epsom is whether her stamina will last out on her first start over a mile and a half, but Doyle is optimistic.

She added: “I was very pleased with the performance at Newbury, as at Haydock I kind of gave her a no-excuses ride, jumped out in the box seat and she was a little bit gassy.

“Stepping up into Listed company at Newbury I just wanted to ride her quietly to see how she’d relax and go through the gears and she relaxed beautifully – and was very responsive when I asked her.

“To me there was no definitive answer off the back of that performance whether she’d stay a mile and a half or not, but I think she ticks a lot of boxes that need ticking, so we’ll find out won’t we?

“I don’t see why she won’t stay. She relaxes well enough to allow herself to stay that far and give herself the best possible chance.

“A mile and a half around Epsom is a relatively easy 12 furlongs, but there’s lots of other variables that you’ve got to take into consideration.”

Doyle’s confidence in the John and Thady Gosden-trained filly was seemingly buoyed by a Sunday morning gallop in Newmarket – a final serious workout before her trip to Epsom.

Hollie Doyle has high hopes for Nashwa
Hollie Doyle has high hopes for Nashwa (John Walton/PA)

She said: “I sat on her yesterday and she’s grown a little bit more. It was probably her final piece of work before the Oaks and I couldn’t have been happier.

“Every time you get on her there’s a bit more that’s progressed, so that’s great at this stage.

“She’s a dream ride really. She’s got a lovely mind and a great attitude and I still think she’s not the finished article – I think there’s more to come from her physically.

“She’s everything you want in a racehorse at the moment.”

One of Doyle’s rivals in the Oaks will be her husband Tom Marquand, who recently got the call-up to partner Tranquil Lady for Joseph O’Brien.

Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle at Doncaster
Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle at Doncaster (Mike Egerton/PA)

If the two were to become embroiled in a battle for victory, Doyle will hold nothing back.

She said: “He might be my husband, but when we’re in those gates it’s very competitive. We don’t give each other an inch really and we both want to win.

“I suppose from the outside looking in it’s pretty weird and unique, but I think we’re so used to it now it’s not really a thing.”

Doyle said she has let herself dream about steering Nashwa to Oaks glory, adding: “I do think about it quite a lot and you kind of envisage it happening, but until it happens you can’t believe it really.

“I think it’s been at the front of my mind since she had that Oaks entry, hence why I was quite relieved when she got the job done at Newbury.

“I think Tom is probably sick of hearing the word Nashwa over the last three or four weeks!”

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