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Hambleton on a high after Glen Shiel’s breakthrough win

Members of the Hambleton Racing syndicate can finally take in what it means to be Group One winners, following Glen Shiel’s breakthrough success at the highest level at Ascot.

Having gone close in the Haydock Sprint Cup, Archie Watson’s charge was surprisingly overlooked in the betting under Hollie Doyle on Saturday.

However, Doyle was on the crest of a wave after winning the opening race on Champions Day on Trueshan – and she took the early initiative before holding off the late lunge of Kevin Ryan’s Brando by the narrowest of margins in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

“Saturday was a massive moment for us,” said Hambleton’s Simon Turner.

“Our blueprint has always been to buy in the more affordable area of the market with top trainers, and try and compete at the highest level possible.

“At £45,000, Glen would be one of our more expensive purchases – but he seemed ridiculous value at that level. He’s been a revelation since dropped back to sprinting, and has been superbly handled by Archie Watson, who is destined for the very top of his profession in my opinion.

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“Archie’s numbers are simply superb. Some have him pigeon-holed as two-year-old trainer, but there are countless examples of Archie achieving superb results with cast-offs from other yards too, many of them cheaply acquired.

“On a personal level, to win a race at the highest level with Hambleton Racing makes me very proud. We owe much of our success to Kevin Ryan, who has always looked after us exceptionally well and has provided us with any number of good horses along the way.

“I regard Kevin as a good friend, and it was no surprise he was the first on the phone on Saturday to congratulate me, despite the fact he’d just missed out with Brando. That’s the mark of the guy – he’s not just a just an outstanding trainer, but a true sportsman too.”

There are many different business models that syndicates adopt, with some offering shares for as little as £50, but Hambleton Racing hope theirs is one of the more robust on the market – with the loyalty shown by members as living proof.

Turner said: “Owning with us isn’t cheap – typically an owner will spend between £2-4,000 on their share and another £3,000 on the annual costs.

“We’d be among the more expensive syndicates but operate with some old-fashioned values. We certainly don’t penalise owners when their horses do well, so won’t be taking a penny of the £275,000 that Glen Shiel has won for his owners this year.

“We’re very proud of the fact many owners have been with us for over 10 years, which must mean we’re doing something right.

“I don’t think we’ll suddenly change our approach and start spending twice as much at the sales now. We’ll continue to seek out the best value we can at the sales. Thankfully, there seems to be a lot of value around at the moment.”

While most of the publicity around Glen Shiel’s win concerned Doyle, given it was her first Group One win, the same also applied to Watson – who was understandably delighted.

“I’m so proud of Glen Shiel, Hollie, and the whole team after the Champions Sprint,” said the Lambourn trainer.

“Hollie gave him a fantastic ride, and he was so tough. He hasn’t stopped improving all year, and to win a Group One is unbelievable.

“I am so pleased for Hambleton Racing, who are such huge supporters of ours, and for all his owners.

“Huge credit must go to Tom Biggs, who bought Glen Shiel for just £45,000 as a five-year-old horse in training last year.”

Monday Musings: Tom and Hollie’s Top Class Show

Many famous men through history have had to accept second place in their relationships with their even more well-known better halves, writes Tony Stafford. Their own celebrity was undoubtedly the reason they first came to the attention of their future partners, none more so than Joe Di Maggio, America’s supreme baseball star of the 1950’s, who had to grow accustomed, once hitched, to being referred to as Mr Marilyn Monroe.

Joe clearly accepted that slight (as it was in those unenlightened days) on his manhood, for why else would he have continued to support the troubled platinum blonde film star through the various subsequent alliances and scandals that stretched all the way to a President of the United States? For Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, read John F Kennedy and Marilyn, illicit alliances half a century apart.

While entertainment and sport stars have occasionally got together, rarely has it been on such an equal basis as Mr and Mrs Hollie Doyle. Sorry, not quite yet, as although the wonderful Hollie and the equally admirable Tom Marquand are no married couple, they do live together in Hungerford. After Saturday’s exploits where the 20-some pair – Tom is the younger by two years – monopolised Champions Day at Ascot to the tune of four wins, so 67% of the six races, Tom hinted that marriage might be on the horizon.

Halfway through Saturday’s card, the various television outlets were in full Hollie mode. She won the first two races on Trueshan (by miles in the Stayers) and thrillingly by a nose on Glen Shiel (Sprint) before finishing a creditable second on Dame Malliot behind the highly-talented Wonderful Tonight, trained by David Menuisier in the fillies’ and mares’ race. Had the finishing order been reversed you could have imagined Frankie Dettori, already tailed off on Stradivarius in the opener and destined to share in Palace Pier’s first career defeat later on, wondering what was going on. Ascot’s supposed to be his private venue, but sorry Frankie, even Peter Pan had to grow old one day.

As it turned out, Glen Shiel was her final win, but after a brief break in the changing room while Palace Pier was struggling into third behind The Revenant in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, she picked up lesser cheques, for sixth in the Champion Stakes on Extra Elusive for her new boss Imad Sagar, and another second on Sir Michael Stoute’s Solid Stone in the Balmoral Handicap which closed the show.

I’m not sure whether the Marquand/Doyle team pools its earnings. By all accounts they usually sit down to relax after their respective long days, maybe playing a game of cards, watching telly or maybe even examining closely the relative quality of their performances.

At times one or other might be in the ascendant, as Hollie clearly was in the first half of Saturday when the total earnings of her two wins and three minor places added up to a whopping £495,000. Modesty precludes me from checking just what the precise share of that will go to the jockey, but somewhere around seven per cent might not be far wide of the mark.

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So Hollie could rightfully say as they shuffled the cards: “Here’s my Group 2 and Group 1, can you match that?”. Well, fortunately, late-starting Tom could indeed counter. “Yes Hollie, here’s my 62 grand for the Balmoral Handicap on Njord, but my Group 1 and the 425k Addeybb won in the Champion Stakes easily matches your day’s work!”

In monetary terms it might just do so, but in the media perception – I still didn’t watch it on ITV, but Sky Sports Racing, who had to share their rightful coverage of Ascot with Racing TV and the national broadcaster - both revelled in Holliemania. It was indeed mostly a one-way street.

In the end, though, it proved to be almost a dead-heat on the earnings front, the final figure arriving at almost exactly £1 million (505 Tom and 495 Hollie); just like their riding styles: tidy, unobtrusive and in each case being in the right place at the right time in just about all their races.

I’ve mentioned Tony Nerses before and there’s no doubt that Imad Sagar’s Racing Manager played a big part in securing Hollie’s services earlier in the year. When the news came it was with a mixture of surprise at the appointment and dread that it might all go pear-shaped, but the tiny Hollie quickly grew into the role. The first Group races soon came, notably on Sagar’s Extra Elusive at Windsor in August, the highlight of her personal five-timer that day. Now she has that first Group 1 on her ever-expanding list of achievements and a record number of winners for a female rider: already pushing 120, that in a truncated year. Which of them will win the championship first? Possibly Hollie, but either will be a credit to the accolade.

There seems no limit to the list of potential employers – if you’re good enough for Sir Michael Stoute, you’re good enough for anyone. At the same time Marquand has seamlessly moved from the guy who happened to be available to partner Addeybb in those two winning Group 1 rides in Australia last winter to now being the go-to man for that well-travelled mudlark’s trainer, William Haggas.

I use the term mudlark advisedly, and there is little doubt that there is no point in turning up on Champions Day if you cannot cope with the soft ground that is almost inevitable in mid-October. That was always the main argument against staging such an important date so late in the year. In a normal mid-October once the European pattern gets through the various Classic schedules of the three major racing nations, there is little scope to go elsewhere. The Irish have their Champions weekend; France and the Arc meeting follows three weeks later, so this is where our big day has to be.

Not that the winners of Saturday’s races are anything but worthy, even if the names John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien, for whatever reason, didn’t manage to collect any first prizes. I was surprised to hear that Gosden was citing the going for Stradivarius’ capitulation in the opening Stayers race. It was the fourth time he’d contested it and he’d won it only once previously. This time he’d gone through the extra exertion of a full preparation for the Arc with a mile and a half run in one of the trials. Gosden’s suggestion that because the Arc had been run at a pedestrian pace it was less demanding than usual seemed surprising.

The biggest surprise, though, in view of his less than outstanding record at this fixture – nowhere near the level of his three Gold Cups there or four Goodwood Cups in high summer – was that he started as short as 11-10.  Trueshan came to the race having won six of ten career starts, including a defeat of smart stayer Withhold in Listed class last time at Salisbury. Runner-up Search For A Star had won the last two renewals of the Irish St Leger for Dermot Weld and third home Fujaira Star had won a Royal Ascot handicap before impressing in a top-class Ebor at York and following home Search For A Star at the Curragh. It was a hot race.

I fully expected Andrew Gemmill to have been at Ascot on Saturday for Trueshan’s win, but he stayed home. Andrew was one of the four original owners – the Singula Partnership- of Trueshan but in May last year they leased the horse to the Barbary Lions 5, a bigger syndicate of 20 in which the quartet also participates. That lease ends at the end of the year according to Andrew and it will be interesting to see whether Alan King will allow this four-year-old gelding to run over hurdles which must have been the original plan. More than likely he’ll be happy to stay on the level and try to win next year’s Gold Cup.

Some spectacular results have been achieved by two of Saturday’s winners, cheaply bought at auction some way into their careers. The Darley-bred Glen Shiel had already raced 11 times in all, once at two, then as a three- and four-year old for Godolphin with Andre Fabre, winning three times. Turning up at the Doncaster May sales as a five-year-old, unraced so far that year, he was bought on behalf of Archie Watson for £45,000 and didn’t see a British racecourse until October. Five runs before the turn of the year didn’t produce a win, but the first of three pre-lockdown appearances did.

On January 8 at Newcastle off a mark of 96 and ridden by Hollie, he won readily. It was not until another five runs later, also at Newcastle in late June that he collected again and that was the start. The son of Pivotal has shown his and his trainer’s ability with a second to Dream Of Dreams in the Haydock Sprint Cup and then by reversing that form while also seeing off perennial Group 1 sprint contender Brando, much to his rider’s evident disbelief.

Marquand was also the beneficiary of an inspired purchase. The four-year-old Njord had started out with Sheila Lavery’s Irish stable, gaining his first win off 63 in May last year. He collected again on October 13 before going to Goff’s sales six days later when BBA Ireland paid 54,000 Euro on behalf of Jessica Harrington. By now on 82, he ran back at Gowran Park only nine days after the sale, winning comfortably. Another win, soon after racing’s resumption in June came off 88 at The Curragh. On Saturday Njord ran away with the highly-competitive Balmoral Handicap and must now be on at least 110, more than three stone higher than where he started.

I highlighted the chance of The Revenant last week in this column and was not at all surprised that he coped with conditions better than Palace Pier when going one better than last year in the QE II. He now has the remarkable figures of 10 wins, two seconds and a third in 13 career starts. In that race, Sir Busker’s alarming tendency to hang left when put under pressure didn’t stop him from finishing fourth, showing that if he had been drawn on the stands side in that most unfair of all Cambridgeshires, he might well have won it. Fourth in this coveted Group 1 and almost £35k will have been satisfactory compensation.

One other horse that we in the UK probably have hardly noticed – I hadn’t! - even after his achievement of splitting Addeyyb and Magical, who was unluckily denied a run at a crucial stage, is Skalleti. This five-year-old, trained in Marseille by the talented Jerome Reynier has a record on a par with The Revenant’s. Even after Saturday’s defeat he has 12 victories from 16 and this autumn has a Deauville Group 3 victory over subsequent Arc winner Sottsass and an easy Prix Dollar victory on Arc weekend on his record.

Preconceptions proved misguided in several cases on Saturday, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that some of the winners weren’t up to standard. They were.

- TS

Archie Watson thrilled to send out first Group One winner

Plenty of plaudits will rightly be attributed to Hollie Doyle following her breakthrough Group One success aboard Glen Shiel at Ascot – and it should not be lost it was also a first victory at the highest level for trainer Archie Watson.

In the four years that he has held a licence, Watson has made giant strides, enjoying plenty of success both at home and abroad, and since teaming up with Doyle, who turned 24 last weekend, he has now formed what is fast becoming a formidable partnership.

Seeing the pair notch doubles together at tracks like Wolverhampton and Lingfield has become a common sight, and the duo finally enjoyed glory on the biggest of stages thanks to the victory of the Hambleton Racing-owned gelding in the Qipco British Champions Sprint.

Watson said: “That is my first Group One winner and it is absolutely amazing. He is some horse and there aren’t many Group One horses that are picked up for £45,000 at a horses in training sale. He has just improved throughout the year.

“I was delighted to see Hollie get her first Group One winner as she is such a hard-working rider. I’m so pleased that I was able to give her that breakthrough Group One as we have had so many winners together. Her being on this winner means a lot to me and the yard.

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“I’ve been knocking on the door at Group One level with the likes of Soldier’s Call, Snowy Winter and Absolute Blast, who were all Group One-placed. For him to get his head in front is massive for the yard, as we’ve only been going just over four years.”

Making the decision to purchase Glen Shiel at the Goffs UK Spring Horses In Training/P2P Sale was a shrewd decision by Watson, but equally as important to helping the six-year-old realise his potential was reverting him back to sprinting this campaign.

Watson said: “We always intended to drop him down in trip, as when we first got him we raced him over a mile and a quarter. Since he has dropped to six furlongs he has just improved.

“He has been so consistent and he hasn’t been out of the first two over six furlongs. He has gone from winning off big weights in handicaps into conditions races and now into stakes races.

“He has only run in four Group races and he has improved in all of them, having learnt how to race over the trip.”

Though now able to celebrate the victory Watson, who watched the race away from the track, admits he was on edge awaiting the outcome of the result.

He said: “Waiting on the photo-finish was not good for me, but I thought he just held on. As it was literally a bob of the heads, you can never be confident in a situation like that.

“While I’m delighted to give Hollie her first Group One, I’m also delighted for his owners Hambleton Racing as they have been big supporters of mine.

“A lot of credit needs to go to Tom Biggs, who spotted him at the sale with me – he buys all these horses and puts me in the privileged position to train them.”

Having kept Glen Shiel busy since the start of the year, Watson intends to give his new stable star a well-deserved break before taking aim at all the major sprint races over six furlongs next year.

He said: “Everything has gone fantastic today and he will have another holiday now. I think straight tracks really play to his strengths, so he won’t be going to the Breeders’ Cup or Hong Kong. We will look at all those six-furlong races in Europe for him.

“I hope there are still more big wins in him, there will not be too much difference in him from being a six-year-old to a seven-year-old. He has been in such good form and it has been great to strike while the iron has been hot.

“Hopefully there is still more to come and he can be very competitive in these sorts of races next season.”

Hollie Doyle leaves lasting impression on unforgettable Champions Day

Hollie Doyle made her mark on an unforgettable Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot with a double that included the first Group One triumph of her career.

Glen Shiel gave the record-breaking 24-year-old that landmark success when just holding on for glory in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes.

Doyle and connections of the Archie Watson-trained six-year-old had a few anxious moments waiting for the result of the photo-finish, before it was confirmed Glen Shiel (16-1) had beaten Brando by a nose.

The epic success by the narrowest of margins capped a momentous week in another season to remember for Doyle, for it was only on Wednesday she broke her own record for number of winners by a female rider in a calendar year.

“It is a dream come true, a massive dream come true, especially on this horse. Everyone in the yard adores him,” said Doyle, who at Windsor in August became the first female jockey to ride five winners at a single meeting.

“My aim at the start of the year was to ride a Group winner and I always said a Group One one day, but I didn’t think it would come this year.

“I don’t get too carried away, but I’m a bit delusional as to what is going on at the moment as it has all been a bit of a whirlwind. It has been a great few years.

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“It feels really unusual as for someone like me it doesn’t normally happen, but it has done today.

“I’m in a state of shock right now. I didn’t think I’d won, so to have had the result we have was incredible.”

She added: “It’s not about me it’s about Archie Watson, he has campaigned this horse unbelievably. No one else would have won a Group One with this horse.”

It was only 35 minutes earlier she had become the first female to ride a winner on British Champions Day with an easy victory in the opening Long Distance Cup on Trueshan (11-1).

Leading over a furlong out, Alan King’s stayer stormed away from the opposition to score by seven and a half lengths from Search For A Song.

“That was incredible, I travelled all over them. He doesn’t like being crowded, so I switched him at the three-pole and the further I went, the better,” said Doyle.

Hollie Doyle opens her British Champions Day account on Trueshan (left) in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot
Hollie Doyle opens her British Champions Day account on Trueshan (left) in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“This is a proper horse, he won his first two starts. I’ve always liked him – but I’m not going to lie, I didn’t realise he would be up to Group Two level like today.

“The further I was going, the better. He was tanking with me and he went through the ground like a tractor.

“The pace was reasonable, but he was travelling and he felt like he was hacking round there. I switched my fellow round horses as they said he didn’t like getting crowded in the Ebor and when I pushed the button, he responded.”

A remarkable hat-trick looked on the cards when she went out to partner Dame Malliot in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes.

But as hard as they tried, Doyle and her mount had to play second fiddle to Wonderful Tonight and William Buick.

Thumbs up from Hollie Doyle's partner Tom Marquand after his win on Addeybb in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot
Thumbs up from Hollie Doyle’s partner Tom Marquand after his win on Addeybb in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Doyle lost nothing in defeat in the biggest race on the card, the Qipco Champion Stakes, as she steered Roger Charlton’s 33-1 outsider Extra Elusive into a creditable sixth place.

However, she would have taken pride in the outcome as the winner, Addeybb, was ridden by her partner, Tom Marquand.

Fittingly, the couple fought out the finish of the concluding Balmoral Handicap, with Marquand landing the spoils on Njord and Doyle second on Solid Stone as they ended the day all square with two winners each.

Doyle said at the conclusion of a remarkable afternoon: “It has been incredible and you wouldn’t have called it. We both came here with a few chances, but in Group Ones and races like that you need a bit of luck. It has exceeded all expectations.

“Tom really liked Addeybb today and I think that is the icing on the cake, for the horse to win a Group One in England. I thought Dame Malliot was my best chance, but I just bumped into a good one there. Glen Shiel was incredible.

“It feels really special as we are the younger generation and we are probably two of the youngest people to have ridden four winners on Champions Day out of six races.

“We are going for a meal around here somewhere which will be nice. I’m not sure who is paying, we will have to go half and half!”

Glen Shiel gives Hollie Doyle landmark first career Group One victory

Hollie Doyle landed her first Group One success when snatching the verdict on Glen Shiel in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot.

Just 35 minutes after Doyle had become the first female rider to win on British Champions Day in the opening Long Distance Cup on Trueshan, the 24-year-old broke yet more new ground in a record-breaking year.

Doyle and connections of the Archie Watson-trained six-year-old had to wait a few anxious moments for the result of the photo-finish before it was confirmed Glen Shiel (16-1) had beaten the veteran Brando by a nose.

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Glen Shiel was always in the front rank after being smartly out of the stalls and was joined three furlongs out by Oxted. The July Cup winner took the lead, but had nothing more to give in the final half-furlong.

Glen Shiel kept on giving back in front – and just held the very late challenge of 80-1 outsider Brando. One Master was half a length away in third place.

Doyle said: “I’m in a state of shock right now. I didn’t think I’d won, so to have had the result we have was incredible. We had a good old battle with Oxted from the three-pole and I thought that I would be doing well to hold on like I did, but he is such a game horse.

“He is incredible. He has got quicker with age. When we first got him, he was running over 10 furlongs in France and didn’t show a whole lot of speed, but the further we dropped him back, the quicker he has got.”

She added: “It’s not about me it’s about Archie Watson, he has campaigned this horse unbelievably. No one else would have won a Group One with this horse.

“It is a dream come true, a massive dream come true, especially on this horse. Everyone in the yard adores him. My aim at the start of the year was to ride a Group winner and I always said a Group One one day, but I didn’t think it would come this year.

“I don’t get too carried away, but I’m a bit delusional as to what is going on at the moment as it has all been a bit of a whirlwind. It has been a great few years.

“It feels really unusual as for someone like me it doesn’t normally happen, but it has done today.”

Glen Shiel hangs on from Brando
Glen Shiel hangs on from Brando (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Kevin Ryan-trained Brando was ridden by Tom Eaves, who said: “He has run a stormer. You are always gutted finishing second, but he has run a great race. It was a bob of the heads. I’m delighted, but gutted at the same time.

“He has been running OK. He ran well at York last Saturday and that probably put him right. York has never been his sort of track. He likes it here on this big, stiff track. It is a great training performance.”