Hollie Doyle is set for another high-profile foreign assignment after being recruited for this month’s STC International Jockeys’ Challenge in Riyadh – where she will then team up with old ally Extra Elusive the following day in the $20million Saudi Cup.
Doyle enjoyed an exceptional 2020 campaign, and hot on the heels of rides at the Breeders’ Cup meeting and the Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship, she will now line up alongside 13 other leading jockeys in the competition at King Abdulaziz Racetrack on February 19.
She said: “I’m really excited to be riding in Saudi. I’ve had a few international trips recently, including Hong Kong, America and Bahrain, and it’s great that I’m getting to go to these big meetings around the world.
“Competing in the jockey challenge events is really cool, because you get to ride alongside some of the world’s top athletes. I’ve only been to some of these places for a short period of time, but I’ve learnt a lot. That’s what will hopefully make me a better jockey, and I’ll keep taking these opportunities with both hands.
“Last year was unbelievable, and when you get a taste of success it makes you want it even more. I’ve now got even more drive and ambition to succeed in 2021.”
Doyle – whose year included a first Group One winner and third place in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award – will be joined by the likes of William Buick, Shane Foley, Cristian Demuro and Jessica Marcialis in a challenge which will feature seven international women, two local men and five international men.
Last year’s event provided a slice of history as Lisa Allpress became the first woman to ride a Flat winner in Saudi Arabia when taking the opening leg.
Extra Elusive’s planned participation in the Saudi Cup on February 20 adds an extra frisson for Doyle, who could also team up with the Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained Albadri in the Saudi Derby.
“It looks as though Extra Elusive has got into the Saudi Cup, so I’d be really excited about riding him in that on the Saturday,” she said.
“The prize-money goes all the way down to 10th, so it would be great if he took his chance there and could get amongst it.
“I’d like to think he’ll handle the dirt because he goes well on slow ground here in England. I’m not sure how similar it would ride to a slow turf track, but I’d prefer to ride him on the dirt than I would on the turf as you’d imagine it will be slower. The Saudi Cup is only nine furlongs, and we know he stays further than that.
“I could have Albadri on the Saturday too, because I know Jane Chapple-Hyam is hoping to go for the Al Rajhi Bank Saudi Derby after his win at Southwell recently. He’s a lightly-raced horse that’s going the right way at the moment, but he’ll need to take another big step forward to get competitive.”
Extra Elusive won two Group Threes last year in the shape of the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock and Windsor’s Winter Hill Stakes – providing a leg of Doyle’s famous five-timer at the Thamesside track in August.
His trainer Roger Charlton had been looking at a turf option on the card, but the lure of the showpiece event has tempted connections.
He said: “There’s been a bit of toing and froing, but he’s going to run in the Saudi Cup.
“We got an invite to the Saudi Cup that we weren’t really expecting – and having discussed it with the owner (Imad Al Sagar), he’s very keen to run in it. The prize-money is so much more than the Neom Turf Cup – if you finish 10th in the Saudi Cup, it’s the same prize-money for finishing second in the turf race.
“Over 1800m they’ll go very, very quick – and the kickback will be something he hasn’t experienced before. We’re hoping we can get among the money.
“In the past he has inclined to be up at the front making the running – this obviously won’t be the case, so a wider draw would probably be beneficial to keep him out of the kickback.”
Extra Elusive was last seen finishing a creditable sixth in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, two places in front of fellow Saudi Cup contender Mishriff.
Charlton added: “He’s been pretty consistent and he won his two Group Threes well last year. He was placed in another, and the ground wouldn’t have suited him in the Champion Stakes – but he ran a good, consistent race again.
“My concern is that he hasn’t travelled abroad yet, and he’s a fairly highly-strung individual. It’s how he takes a 16-hour journey door-to-door and how he handles the training on the track out there.
“He had a break after the end of last season, and the weather hasn’t been very helpful to us – we’ve had snow here twice. He didn’t resume exercise until after Christmas, and it’s been a steady build-up. He does all his training by himself, but he seems in good form. It’s important that he’s in a consistent and steady routine every day.”