Hollie Doyle strikes in Riyadh on True Self

Hollie Doyle broke American hearts when bringing Willie Mullins’ True Self with a tremendous late run to take the Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh.

Britain’s record-breaking female jockey produced True Self to collar long-time leader Channel Maker close home and lift the £437,956 first prize.

Bill Mott’s Channel Maker, a close third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, looked like he had the race in the bag when he slipped the field at the top of straight after soaring past For The Top.

However, jockey Joel Rosario had not accounted for True Self’s abundant stamina – and the eight-year-old started to reduce the gap.

With Doyle in full drive, True Self pulled away from Channel Maker to score by a length and a quarter. The pair were four and three-quarter lengths clear of Emirates Knight in third.

The well-fancied Tilsit, trained by Charlie Hills, had a good early position but was beaten a long way from home.

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Doyle enjoyed a sensational 2020 – and again looks like carrying all before her.

She said: “It was an incredible year (last year) and it’s great to get this year off winning a valuable race such as this.

“To be fair, I thought she was my best winning chance of the day. I watched all her performances and I thought she was well up to winning this. The step back in trip was an incredibly clever move by Mr Mullins. She’s a strong traveller usually over further trips, and that helped her today.

Hollie Doyle at the presentation ceremony
Hollie Doyle at the presentation ceremony (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood)

“They went an even, generous gallop all the way round. We got racing quite soon so the race fell apart quite early, but luckily I managed to latch on to the back of Ryan Moore (on Tilsit) and I got the splits up the straight.”

Doyle admitted riding in the jockeys’ challenge at the track on Friday, even though she had no luck, was a big help to her.

She said: “It made a huge difference. It was great walking into a day as important as this having the experience I gained yesterday.”

A proud Mullins looked on from his County Carlow base, and was full of praise for both Doyle and his winning mare.

He said: “I’d like to congratulate Hollie on a fantastic ride.

“She’s way more speed than we thought when we bought her – as a bumper mare, to go hurdling with.

“She just has a huge amount of speed. All the jockeys who have ridden her have said to me that a mile and a quarter suits her.

“I was happy enough with where Hollie had positioned herself – and I imagine, without having talked to Hollie (yet), that she was probably going as fast as she could over the first half of the race.

True Self collars Channel Maker
True Self collars Channel Maker (Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood)

“Then, when the pace was injected as the American horse went up on the outside, I thought ‘that’s great, because they’ll be coming back at the end’.

“Sure enough – that’s what happened. Hollie just kept her head, kept the position we’d discussed – if we’d anything left in the tank we’d just wait and wait as long as she could.

“It looked like our mare just stayed on and on, while the one in front was just tying up.”

He added: “We’ve had gale force winds here (in Ireland) and an inch of rain this morning, and I thought ‘it’ll be lovely over there’. But then I saw at the start you had lots of rain as well. So I thought ‘that suits the mare – she’ll feel more at home with that’.”

Looking to future targets for True Self, Mullins said: “We’ll have a look – today’s race and Australia at the end of this year in November, that’s the main plan. So what we do in between times we haven’t really thought about.

“The first part of the year’s plan has worked out, and it will be probably on to Australia from here.”

Hollie Doyle all set for International Jockeys’ Challenge

Hollie Doyle is excited to be competing in the stc International Jockeys’ Challenge in Saudi Arabia.

She is one of seven female jockeys, including last year’s winner Sibylle Vogt, taking on two local and five overseas male riders in Riyadh on Friday.

Doyle had a successful debut in a similar competition in Hong Kong in December when she won on Harmony N Blessed to clinch third spot and earn a place on the winners podium.

The tournament consists of four races on the dirt course, with the winning rider receiving $30,000.

Her mounts are Interlaken in the first leg over seven furlongs, Stylehunter over a mile, Sowt Alreeh over nine furlongs and Moahal in the final leg over six furlongs.

With all the horses trained locally, Doyle knows little about them but has been doing as much homework as she can – and looking forward to getting a taste of the track first hand before the meeting.

“I’m really excited about it. There’s great prize-money up for grabs, so I just need a bit of luck really,” she said.

“I’ve had a brief look at the form. It’s quite hard because they are local horses. I think one or two of them have a bit of form. Some are stepping back in trip and are running over trips they don’t usually run over, so it will be interesting.

William Buick is a second UK-based rider in the International Jockeys' Challenge in Saudi Arabia
William Buick is a second UK-based rider in the International Jockeys’ Challenge in Saudi Arabia (Tim Goode/PA)

“I’m walking the track today and riding out in the morning, before the meeting in the evening. I will have a good idea then.”

Among the other female riders are Jessica Marcialis, the first woman to ride a Group One winner in France in the Prix Marcel Boussac, and Malin Holmberg – whose victories include the 1000 and 2000 Guineas in Norway.

The male jockeys include Godolphin’s William Buick, Irish Classic-winner Shane Foley, three-time Kentucky Derby hero John Velazquez, Brazilian ace Jorge Ricardo and Cristian Demuro, who won the Arc on Sottsass in October.

Last year’s challenge saw history made when Lisa Allpress rode Matmon to victory in the first leg.

Three-time champion jockey in New Zealand, Allpress stormed up the far rail to deny Olivier Peslier aboard Motayammen, becoming the first woman to ride a winner in Saudi Arabia.

Hollie Doyle to team up with True Self in Saudi Arabia

Hollie Doyle has been booked to ride the Willie Mullins-trained mare True Self in the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Now an eight-year-old, True Self showed she was as good as ever on her last outing when winning the Group Three Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Flemington for a second time in November.

A real globetrotter, as well as her trips to Australia, she has run in England, Ireland, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia within the last 14 months.

Her part-owner OTI’s general manager Shayne Driscoll told “It’s great to see her make the trip back to Riyadh to race for such significant prize money.

“This year we opted for the 2,100-metre race (10 and a half furlongs), rather than the 3000m event, feeling that she’s ready to run a top race at the shorter distance.

“Willie Mullins is exceptionally pleased with her and can’t fault her work.

“We’re hoping for an ideal barrier, but with star jockey Hollie Doyle booked to ride, we think she should have every chance to run a super race.”

Monday Musings: Of Coups and Separation

The Hollie Doyle/ Tom Marquand bubble will be stretched by a few thousand miles for the next two months, writes Tony Stafford. While Hollie contemplates a trip to Saudi Arabia for that kingdom’s big race, the multi-million-dollar Saudi Cup at the end of the month, fiancé Tom is bound for a return trip to Australia where he had such spectacular rewards last year.

It is fair to say that twin Group 1 wins on the William Haggas-trained Addeybb ‘down under’ instantly propelled him into the top echelon of Flat-race jockeys. Understandable, then, that he is prepared to spend the next two months – thereby missing the start of the 2021 turf season – on those lucrative shores.

The circumstances will be different though this year, as they will be for every UK resident not managing to secure an overseas “pass” in these days of limited air travel.

You need a valid reason for going but I‘m sure even the strictest enforcer of the rules will have agreed that travelling over to ride in races for a percentage of million-pound pots every few weeks is justifiable. Marquand will this time have to spend two weeks at the start of the trip stuck in a hotel room living off room service and, no doubt, Zoom calls to his beloved at the other side of the World.

Covid-19 first assailed, briefly relaxed its grip, and then re-established itself in Australia, where the discovery of a cluster of cases in a quarantine hotel in Melbourne which had been latterly free of the virus caused the removal of spectators from the Australian Open tennis championships halfway through a match on the main court towards the end of last week.

Luckily, Tom is bound not for Melbourne but Sydney where he had 30 wins during last year’s Autumn Carnival. Parting will be such sweet sorrow for the Golden Couple of horse racing but a few more big pots will help them hopefully on their way to getting a joint mortgage!

The two-week “house arrest” it seems will feature an exercise bike to keep the fitness up although if there are two better-prepared jockeys in the UK weighing rooms these days than Doyle and Marquand I would be surprised.

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Hollie’s principal employer, apart from the plum job she got last year with Imad Al Sagar, for whom she will be riding in Saudi Arabia, is Archie Watson. The Lambourn trainer has provided her with 115 wins from the 548 mounts she has had for his stable.

Watson and Doyle teamed up for the Group 1 win of Glen Shiel in the Qipco Champion Sprint at Ascot in October when it took all the rider’s strength to get him home from the equally-gallant veteran Brando in a desperate finish.

Watson, I was surprised to note on looking through his stats this morning, actually had quite a slip in numerical terms of winners between 2019 (133) and the comparatively-modest 70 last year, although quality – rather than the quantity that made his reputation – was the stable’s new focus. Now he faces an even quieter spell after antibodies of the highly-contagious EVA (equine viral arteritis) were discovered in one of his horses.

Watson has imposed an immediate halt on having any runners from his stable for the foreseeable future and is working closely with the BHA to ensure the outbreak is confined so as not to spread it through the racing community.

Jump racing’s recent hiatus with the ravages of one of the more aggressive winters of recent memory looks likely to get a reprieve for the rest of this week. Exeter managed half a card (no chases) yesterday but it is full speed ahead today at Warwick where the featured Kingmaker Chase pits the Skeltons’ highly-regarded front-runner Allmankind against Cheddleton and Sky Pirate.

It will be great to see horses of that class aiming to secure their places in Cheltenham Festival’s Arkle Trophy. I have in the back of my mind that Chaddleton, trained by Jennie Candlish, might be value at 6-1 in a four-horse race where the ground is sure to be very testing even at two miles.

I trust you will forgive what, by necessity, is a less comprehensive view of matters racing but there can rarely have been in the seven years or so that we’ve been going in this place – except of course from mid-March to May 31 last year! –so little of note happening on a racecourse .

As they say, even reminiscing about the past is not what it was, although uncannily on the morning that the last piece was landing in the inboxes of my correspondents and on this site, the events of June 10th 1989 were to be spookily rekindled.

Referring back to a planned four-timer for horses trained by Peter Hudson at the privately-owned Linkslade Stables of Al Deera Bloodstock Holdings – now Willie Muir’s base – following last week’s two-out-of-three attempted coup, I also had to recall that time a failed final leg.

By all accounts one of the architects of the Scottish-initiated bet would have won between £2 and £3 million had the third leg won. That’s the widely-touted figure and of course I have no intention of pointing a finger anywhere! But bad luck anyway, if that’s what it was.

What I can say with some accuracy is that Pharaoh’s Delight’s failure to win Leicester’s Sports Mercury Maiden Fillies’ Stakes at 8.45 p.m. on that Saturday evening some 32 years earlier cost the owner of the horses the best part of £250k – although getting the money from the 300 shops covered by Danny, Kevin, Paul, Lennie and my dad would not have been easy.

When it came to collecting the cash, my then 69-year-old father left those duties to his dog trainer, Paul Philpott, and Paul’s boyhood Homerton mate Roland, known as Boo, who for many years has been a noted collector of racing memorabilia.

Boo, who upscaled to Hertford years ago, has so much stuff, largely racecards and the like that he has had to take a lock-up to house it all. Recently he was asked to vacate the rented space as the owner had a better use for it and, while going through some of his collectibles from the 1980’s, came across the very Leicester racecard which I now have in front of me.

Pharaoh’s Delight was ridden by Pat Eddery that night and she had worked well at home although David Dineley, who had ridden her in work before the race, is still adamant more than 30 years on that he reckoned at the time she would need the run.

That wasn’t the trainer’s view and the now Norfolk-based garden designer was of the opinion she had the best chance of the quartet. The other three won well enough (at 11-2, 3-1 and 8-11) so £10k that had been placed in a variety of bets but the majority as Yankees, was shaping up to be a proper coup.

The plot thickened when Pat returned to the weighing room after her sixth place – “dwelt, headway halfway, eased when beaten final furlong”, said the close-up in the year-old Racing Post. Pat told George Hill - there as I couldn’t attend that night: “Bad luck, she’ll win at Royal Ascot.” She did, by just the six lengths in the Windsor Castle Stakes; and, for good measure, she won the Princess Margaret Stakes (Group 2) at Ascot and then the Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes (Group 1) at Phoenix Park on her next two starts.

I wonder where Gallahers Cross, the beaten third leg of last week’s much grander coup at Musselburgh when shortened to 4-5 favourite, will run next. If what happened to Pharaoh’s Delight is anything to go by, the Daragh Bourke gelding, having his first race for more than a year, will bolt up next time – but that will be much too late! I expect they’ll see him coming!

BHA ‘grateful’ to Hollie Doyle for outlining inquiry concerns

The British Horseracing Authority has voiced gratitude to Hollie Doyle over concerns she raised about the tone of a stewards’ inquiry.

Doyle was unsuccessful in her appeal against a six-day ban for improper use of the whip on Echo Brava at Kempton last month.

In a statement, the BHA noted that outcome indicates she was able to make her point effectively in the initial inquiry – although Doyle felt “pretty intimidated” in the course of it and, for that reason among others, decided to appeal.

“It’s important all parties involved in a stewards’ inquiry have faith in the process and feel that they are given the opportunity to state their views in an objective environment,” said a BHA spokesman.

“We are grateful to Hollie for raising the concerns she had following her experience at Kempton.”

The BHA is currently engaged in a programme of training for stewards nationwide.

The spokesman added: “Over the past two years the BHA has developed and facilitated training for all stewards across the country on process and procedure – and while the pandemic has had an impact on that, further professional development in this regard is ongoing and planned in 2021.

“We also note the disciplinary panel, in dismissing the appeal against the six-day ban Hollie Doyle received for using her whip in the incorrect place, felt she had been able to make all of the points she hoped to raise in responding to the charge in the original inquiry.”

Hollie Doyle ready for Riyadh challenge next

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.”

Extra Elusive is set to be Hollie Doyle's Saudi Cup mount
Extra Elusive is set to be Hollie Doyle’s Saudi Cup mount (Tim Goode/PA)

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.

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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.”

Albadri was a winner for Hollie Doyle at Southwell last month
Albadri was a winner for Hollie Doyle at Southwell last month (Mike Egerton/PA)

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 (left) was last seen in the Champion Stakes
Extra Elusive (left) was last seen in the Champion Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.”

Hollie Doyle backing latest Racehorse Lotto prize

Hollie Doyle is throwing her energy behind Racehorse Lotto’s latest prize, a beautifully-bred daughter of Postponed trained by top Newmarket handler Roger Varian.

One lucky entrant to the Racehorse Lotto’s Champions Raffle will win ownership of the filly for the whole of 2021, including naming rights and registering their own racing colours.

Racehorse Lotto’s 2020 prize draws raised a total of £25,000 for Racing Welfare, including the Christmas Raffle where 32-year-old avid racing fan Tony Wood from Bromley won ownership of a two-year-old filly trained by James Ferguson.

Doyle, who enjoyed another record-breaking campaign last year, said: “It feels more important than ever to have some light at the end of the tunnel and the Racehorse Lotto’s latest raffle certainly gives everyone in racing something to get excited about.

“The pandemic has also hit areas of the racing workforce quite hard and Racing Welfare, who will receive 20 per cent of all raffle sales, are currently providing grants for those in the industry that have been affected.

“She’s a lovely, big filly by Postponed, who Mr Varian obviously knows very well, and she looked like a horse with plenty of scope and potential when I went to visit her in the snow last week.”

The filly in question was bred at Mark Weinfeld’s famous Meon Valley Stud, the birthplace of greats such as 2019 Oaks winner Anapurna, dual Group One winner Speedy Boarding, three-time Group One winner Opera House and 1998 Gold Cup winner Kayf Tara, to name a few.

Varian, who saddled Postponed to three Group One victories, said: “We’re extremely excited to be training this daughter of Postponed for the Racehorse Lotto. If she’s anything like her dad, then the winner is in for a real treat!”

All racing, training and vets fees are included in the raffle prize, which is now live, and 100 per cent of any prize-money up to £100,000 goes straight to the raffle winner, with 50 per cent thereafter.

The winner will be picked on March 31.

Mighty Gurkha battles to Kempton victory

Mighty Gurkha showed all his battling qualities to prevail in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park.

The latest fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday looked a well-contested affair, despite just the five starters – and that is how it played out.

Hollie Doyle and the Archie Watson-trained Mighty Gurkha (11-4) led from the outset, but were headed by Zamaani before fighting back for a neck success over the 13-8 favourite. The previously-unbeaten Bravado was another length and a half away in third.

A delighted Doyle told Racing TV: “It was an excellent performance. He pinged the gates and I managed to get an easy enough lead for the first half of the race. Jack (Mitchell, on Zamaani) took me on early enough and we got into a bit of a battle.

“I got headed and felt like I was beat a furlong out, but he stuck his neck out and ran very well to the line.

“I felt he was giving me his all and that I’d take a bit of beating once I got that position and controlled it – he showed a great attitude to get his head back in front.”

Victory for Mighty Gurkha was the second leg of a quick double for Doyle, who also struck on Twilight Madness (3-1) for Simon Hodgson.

Fizzy Feet not for catching at Lingfield

A return to Lingfield for next month’s Kachy Stakes is on the agenda for Fizzy Feet after securing her fifth course victory on Friday.

David Loughnane’s speedy mare carries the colours of owner David Lowe, whose Kachy produced several front-running victories at Lingfield before tragically suffering a fatal injury at the track last February.

While Fizzy Feet has some way to go to match his achievements, she produced a performance reminiscent of the former all-weather sprinting star in the Betway Handicap – and is now bound for a Listed contest named in his honour in just over a fortnight’s time.

A 5-1 outsider following a disappointing effort on her latest appearance at Lingfield, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand was soon bowling along in the lead under Rossa Ryan and had her rivals in serious trouble rounding the home turn.

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Fizzy Feet found another gear to put clear daylight between herself and the field early in the straight and passed the post with three-quarters of a length in hand of Brian The Snail.

Loughnane said: “She dynamite round there – she loves any all-weather track with tight bends, to be fair.

“She’s only improved age and has won now at two, three, four and five. She’s stepped up in grade nicely every time.

“We were pretty confident today. The last day she ran in Wolverhampton she just took a false step and her chance was scuppered from there, and when she ran in the Listed race at Lingfield the race just wasn’t run to suit.”

Confirming her next objective, he added: “We’ll have a crack at the Kachy Stakes on February 6.

“The furlong off the bend there, she’s done it in 10.61 seconds – I don’t know if Kachy ever broke that sort of time over a furlong.

“She’s got plenty of gears and I thought it was an impressive performance under a top-quality ride from Rossa.”

Buy Me Back (right) in action at Lingfield
Buy Me Back (right) in action at Lingfield (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Mark Loughnane – no relation to David – landed the following Play 4 To Score At Betway Handicap with 16-5 shot Buy Me Back.

David Probert’s mount got the better of Indian Pursuit by a length after a five-furlong dash – and Probert went on to complete a double aboard the William Jarvis-trained newcomer Duke Of Verona (33-1) in the Get Your Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boost Novice Stakes.

Not many meetings pass without Hollie Doyle booting home a winner these days, and she struck gold once more aboard the Simon Hodgson-trained Mr Mac (11-4 favourite) in the Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Handicap.

Yorkshire raiders Fred (11-2) and Society Red (16-1), trained by Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey respectively, were also among the winners.

Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand announce engagement

Top jockeys Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand capped a memorable year by announcing their engagement on social media.

The young duo both enjoyed exceptional campaigns in 2020, chalking up a series of personal landmarks.

Marquand’s good run began in Australia where he landed two Group Ones on William Haggas’ Addeybb. He would later go on to win the Champion Stakes at Ascot on the same horse, as well as celebrating his first Classic win on Joseph O’Brien’s Galileo Chrome.

Doyle has taken the racing world by storm this year, breaking records with regularity. Her highlight on the track came aboard Archie Watson’s Glen Shiel, who provided her with a first Group One success on Champions Day, on a card she and Marquand dominated with four winners between them.

She also won the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year accolade and recently finished third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The pair are currently enjoying a winter break and Marquand tweeted a picture of them on a beach which read: “So err…thanks 2020 I guess?!” with Doyle wearing her engagement ring.

Hollie Doyle stars at the Lesters with three awards

Hollie Doyle’s week to remember continued as she took top honours at the 2020 Lesters Awards on Tuesday, including the Flat Jockey of the Year title.

A ground-breaking third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday, Doyle – who reached 150 winners for the year earlier in the day at Lingfield – was nominated for four Lesters, as the Professional Jockeys Association joined forces with Sky Sports Racing to host a live broadcast of the awards, which celebrate the achievements of jockeys over the previous 12 months.

Doyle also claimed the Female Jockey of the Year prize and the Flat Jockey Special Recognition award – becoming the first female jockey to win Flat Jockey of the Year and only the second jockey ever to win three Lesters in a single year, after Paul Hanagan achieved the same feat in 2010.

Hollie Doyle at the BBBC Sports Personality of the Year awards
Hollie Doyle at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (Peter Byrne/PA)

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Brian Hughes, who won his first jump jockeys’ championship in 2020, was chosen as the Jump Jockey of the Year award recipient – 12 years on from receiving his first Lester for conditional jockey of the year in 2008.

Cieren Fallon and Jonjo O’Neill Jnr received their second career Lesters for Apprentice Jockey of the Year and Conditional Jockey of the Year respectively, each for the second year in a row, following on from becoming champion apprentice and champion conditional.

Sky Sports Racing viewers chose Jack Tudor’s determined ride on Potters Corner in the Welsh National at Chepstow as their Jump Ride of the Year, while Racing TV viewers voted for Dylan Hogan’s audacious front-running ride on Wanaasah at Wolverhampton back in January for the Flat Ride of the Year.

The Jump Jockey Special Recognition award was presented to stalwart of the weighing room and dual Grand National winner Leighton Aspell, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Covid restrictions meant the awards were a virtual affair, with the winners unable to receive their coveted trophies in the studio.

Leighton Aspell celebrates Grand National glory aboard Many Clouds
Leighton Aspell celebrates Grand National glory aboard Many Clouds (Mike Egerton/PA)

The final award of the year saw a rare honorary Lester presented to Dr Jerry Hill, the BHA chief medical adviser.

The Presidents’ Special Award was a thank you to Dr Hill from PJA presidents Richard Johnson and PJ McDonald, on behalf of all PJA members, in recognition and appreciation of his tireless efforts this year helping racing to overcome the incredible challenges brought on from the Covid-19 pandemic.

He becomes just the second person to be given an honorary Lester who was not themselves a jockey or worked for the PJA, the only other being Sir Peter O’Sullevan.

Paul Struthers, chief executive of the PJA, said: “The Lesters are always a special occasion and in the absence of being able to hold an actual ceremony we can’t thank Sky Sports Racing enough for agreeing to host this live special as well as Racing TV for assisting us with the rides of the year footage.

“We’re delighted for all the winners and hope it clearly demonstrates to them the regard and esteem in which they are held by their peers. Hollie’s achievement in becoming only the second jockey in Lesters history to win three awards in a year, and becoming the first female jockey to be crowned Flat Jockey of the Year, should not be downplayed.

“We were also delighted to be able to recognise Jerry’s work through the Special Presidents Award. As well as overseeing improvements in the medical care of jockeys, including the expansion of on-course physiotherapy and offering one-to-one advice and support to jockeys who are hospitalised, his tireless and ongoing efforts to get us back racing whilst ensuring the health and safety of the sports participants, hasn’t gone unnoticed by our members and this was their way of saying thank you.”

Another landmark success for Hollie Doyle

Hollie Doyle continued to take the headlines as she secured her 150th winner of 2020 aboard Darwell Lion at Lingfield.

Record-breaking Doyle capped her remarkable year by finishing third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year poll on Sunday and reached her latest milestone two days later with a clear-cut victory on Ellmarie Holden’s Irish challenger.

The two-year-old was a 4-1 shot for his racecourse debut in the Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football EBF Novice Stakes and overcame signs of inexperience to power down the outside and score nicely by a length from La Tihaty.

Doyle told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s great to get to 150. To get the 100 up was a relief, but to get 150 is different class – I didn’t think it would happen this year.”

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Of Darwell Lion, she said: “He’s a big strong horse and knew what he was doing, to be honest.

“He travelled nicely, but was finding it all a bit sharp early on, so I just sat on him.

“He was very green in the closing stages, but I’ve no doubt he’s a nice horse.”

Doyle had already surpassed her own record tally for the most winners in a calendar year by a female jockey, set in 2019 – and pulled off a brilliant Champions Day double at Ascot in October, including her first Group One aboard Glen Shiel in the British Champions Sprint.

The 24-year-old also claimed her first Royal Ascot success on Scarlet Dragon, and rode fives winners on a card at Windsor in August.

She has since taken part at the Breeders’ Cup in America and became the first female to ride a winner in the Longines International Jockeys Championship in Hong Kong this month.

Doyle added: “The Group One on Champions Day is the biggest highlight of the year for me. Hopefully it will unlock a few doors for the future – it’s great to get it under my belt at such a young age.”

Asked whether she would like to challenge for the jockeys’ championship in 2021, she said: “I’ll give it a go. I’ll always be trying as hard as I can and I hope I can land in that position one day, whether it be next year or the the year after I don’t know.

“The main thing is to try and keep people happy and ride as many winners as I can.”

Doyle outlines extended lockdown fears for racing

Top jockey Hollie Doyle is concerned for the future of racing if coronavirus restrictions persist well into the new year and said: “I don’t know how much more it can take.”

Doyle, 24, was celebrating a third-place finish in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year poll on Sunday night. It was reward for a stellar 2020 in which she broke her own record for the number of wins by a female jockey in a calendar year and secured her first Group One success on Glen Shiel as part of a Champions Day double at Ascot.

Doyle herself originally hails from Herefordshire, one of the few parts of England in Tier 1 under the Government’s regionalised system to combat the spread of Covid-19 and where up to 4,000 people are able to attend outdoor sporting events.

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However, the decision to move large parts of southern and eastern England into Tier 4 amid concerns over a new, potentially more transmissible strain of the virus raises the prospect of many more months of racecourses in the highest-risk areas operating behind closed doors.

Doyle is impressed by the resilience her sport has shown to date during the pandemic, but admits extended lockdown restrictions are a real worry.

“There’s a huge ‘food chain’ (around racing) and it’s very stretched,” she said.

“I don’t know how much more it can take, but obviously everyone’s doing all they can to keep the sport up and running.

“It’s going to be hard isn’t it? We can continue to race, we’ve proven we can adapt and keep the show on the road like we did early on while everyone was in lockdown, and keep racing. But obviously the longer we have no crowds and the owners aren’t able to go racing, it is going to become increasingly difficult to sustain.”

Twenty-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy hailed Doyle’s “phenomenal” success in 2020 and backed her to become champion jockey herself in the years to come.

Asked about the praise he had offered her, Doyle said: “It means everything, it means the world. I grew up watching AP ride, watched his journey and all his success. So for him to say such kind words about me is unbelievable.”

Speaking about her targets for 2021, Doyle added: “I always try to better the year before – although it’s going to be hard to do better than I have this year.

“I think I’ve broken any expectation I had of myself and broken a few barriers as well. I hope I’ve encouraged people who don’t expect to be capable of winning things.”

Doyle honoured to do racing proud in BBC’s Sports Personality stakes

Hollie Doyle has described her sense of honour to finish on the podium at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony – and to do so “for the horse racing industry, not just myself”.

Doyle capped her memorable 2020 by taking third place behind Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton – who won the award – and runner-up Jordan Henderson at MediaCityUK in Salford on Sunday evening.

It marks another huge achievement for the record-breaking jockey, with deserved wide acclaim as she raised the profile of her sport with such a strong showing in the public vote.

Afterwards, she said: “It felt unbelievable (to finish third) – but it felt like I was picking it up for the horse racing industry, not just myself.

“I always thought that good things like this don’t happen to people like me, but I’m just honoured to be where I am.”

The BBC award has gone to racing just once in its long history, when Sir Anthony McCoy won in 2010. Doyle’s third matches that of Frankie Dettori, in 1996.

It has been a remarkable 12 months for the 24-year-old, who was joined at the BBC’s ceremony by her partner and fellow jockey Tom Marquand.

In 2020, she broke her own best for the most winners in a calendar year by a female jockey, and pulled off a brilliant Champions Day double at Ascot – including her first Group One aboard Glen Shiel in the British Champions Sprint.

Doyle also claimed her first Royal Ascot success on Scarlet Dragon, and rode fives winners on a card at Windsor in August. She has since taken part at the Breeders’ Cup in America and became the first female to ride a winner in the Longines International Jockeys Championship in Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago.

Her outstanding achievements had already been recognised with several awards – as the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year, the Sports Journalists’ Association Sportswoman of the Year and Flat Jockey of the Year at the HWPA Derby Awards.

Monday Musings: of Hollie, Paisley and Sleepy

So Hollie Doyle finished third in the new-look BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2020 showing that technology can mix with the old-style modesty and courtesy which Ms Doyle, Jordan Henderson and Stuart Broad showed by bothering to turn up on a Sunday night in Manchester, writes Tony Stafford.

Henderson, the genuinely-likeable captain of Liverpool FC, team of the year and whose manager Jurgen Klopp was coach of the year, finished second and favourite Lewis Hamilton won for the second time having been successful six years ago. Standing next to a Christmas tree – “I didn’t decorate it!” he said, Hamilton was presumably at home in Monte Carlo rather than Stevenage. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Tyson Fury didn’t show up either.

Seven world driving championships in overwhelmingly the best car proved too high a hill to climb even for Liverpool’s first winning captain in the life of the Premier League and an unassuming 24-year-old who rode her first Group winners in her eighth year as a jockey only this summer.

It had been quantity rather than quality until her recruitment by Tony Nerses to ride for his boss Imad Al Sagar and it was her win on Sagar’s Extra Elusive in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes, the fourth of a record five winners on a single day for her as recently as August 29 at Windsor that propelled her into the public perception.

It was a nice, albeit forlorn, idea to think she could supplant the well-established front-runners for the SPOTY award. At least the belated campaign put a few quid in the bookmakers’ coffers and a nice boost for British Telecom, although I’m sure the BBC will take a chunk of the phone receipts to help pay their quartet of highly remunerated presenters.

What Hollie will need now to be competitive in this rarefied arena is a step up, a job like stable jockey to John Gosden – move over Frankie, your time is up, maybe? Then she can ride steering jobs in Group races around the big tracks and leave the travelling to the gaffs to stack up the numbers to her fiancé, Mr Marquand! Alternatively, in true “promising debut, should win next time” racing tradition, she could even win it, as long as she gets her first championship in the meantime.

While all the talk around racing circles concerned the possible win against the odds of Hollie and the implications of Tier 4 for those of us in the now most contagious part of the country, Ascot provided two wonderful examples of talented hurdlers coming back from adversity.

The new normal won’t make much difference to me, for although I did make it to Newmarket on Thursday morning and actually saw a couple of horses, since March I’ve pretty much stayed at home. Others around where we live are not so compliant.

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Later on Thursday evening, police cars swarmed past our block as they sought out the actual venue where hundreds of people, reckoned to be mainly in the 20-30 age bracket, were having an illicit drinking party. Helicopters were right overhead for at least an hour. Wasn’t us, guv’nor!

The Paisley Park story and its connection to his owner Andrew Gemmill was one of the strongest themes of the 2018-9 jumps season. The Emma Lavelle-trained hurdler went unbeaten through a five-race campaign triumphing emphatically in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, all the time accompanied by pictures of his enthusiastic owner who, as is well documented, has been blind from birth.

As a result, when at the track he relies on race commentaries and insights from his friends as to how his horses are going. It must have been a dreadful shock at Cheltenham this March when, with a second consecutive championship and another unblemished season in the offing, he first realised something unusual was happening. Where normally he would hear, “Paisley Park is starting to improve”, instead his star made no impression between the last two flights and finished a very tired seventh.

Initially all the stable representative could tell the stewards, understandably like the owner and many thousands of his supporters around the country wanting an explanation of what did go wrong, was he had lost two shoes during the run; but, soon after, a heart issue was discovered.

While such a finding might be alarming, it would at least be enough to explain what happened and probably why. Emma Lavelle went back to the beginning with Paisley Park after the shock had been accepted and, to her and her staff’s credit, she had him ready for the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, the race in which he began his previous campaign.

Whereas 2019 brought a five-length win over Thistlecrack, new contenders lined up, understandably sensing a chink in the previously impenetrable armour, making it double the field size of the previous renewal. As well as Lisnagar Oscar, the horse that now it seems may have “borrowed” rather than taken his crown, there were a number of regulars on the staying circuit but, more tellingly, two of the new generation at the top level in McFabulous, who started favourite and Thyme Hill.

McFabulous proved unable to beat Paisley Park, but the latter in turn was unable to match the speed between the last two jumps by Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill. One of the best novices of his generation he was unluckily beaten out of the frame in the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle a year after his close third to Envoi Allen (still unbeaten and frankly untroubled) in the Festival Bumper of 2019.

Thyme Hill was getting 3lb from the old champion at Newbury and made the most of it, winning by a length and a half but Paisley Park was staying on very well at the finish. When they renewed rivalry on Saturday in the Long Walk Hurdle, a race Paisley Park won two years ago, this Grade 1 was a level-weight affair. Understandably, Thyme Hill, better off, and very much the progressive animal, was favourite to maintain his edge.

If Andrew had been nervous at any stage in the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle, I’d hate to have been the one to tell him, apart from commentator Simon Holt, what his chances were. Until they were well into the straight Holt didn’t have the best of news to report.

After suffering some interference on the bend, he was in an unpromising sixth place coming to two out as Aidan Coleman guided him to the wide outside. By now Thyme Hill was going up to challenge Younevercall and Roksana. Holt said: Paisley Park is under pressure, who is responding, in sixth. At the last he said, “Only three lengths back is Paisley Park, still staying”, and then after the last, “Paisley Park is storming home and he’s got him. He’s pulled it out of the fire!” Thirty or more seconds of agony turned to ecstasy for the owner.

And that’s exactly what it was, a champion showing all his best abilities when everything seemed to be against him, not least his first experience of truly heavy going. After this the regaining of his Cheltenham Festival title must be a strong possibility.

The second back from – if not the dead, then certainly from adversity – was provided by Not So Sleepy, who also made a return win on the track; but, whereas Paisley Park’s first Long Walk was two years ago, Not So Sleepy had been the wide-margin winner of the concluding Betfair Exchange Trophy only last December.

Previously, Not So Sleepy had finished a creditable fourth in the Cesarewitch behind the Willie Mullins-trained Stratum and then won off what at the time looked a gift jumping mark of 122 at the November meeting on the Royal course. A 5lb rise never appeared enough to stop him on his return for the Betfair Handicap Hurdle and he duly romped home by nine lengths as the 9-2 favourite.

Trainer Hughie Morrison, who has managed the one-time Dee Stakes (more than once a precursor to Derby success) winner through seven full campaigns and 49 races, aimed higher after that. The Betfair Hurdle itself at Newbury in February was the plan despite a further, this-time restrictive, hike of 17lb.

Several false starts meant a farcical melee on the outside where Tom O’Brien lined him up in that handicap and, thereafter, he was never in contention. Morrison then took him to the Champion Hurdle and again false starts and interference at the gate precluded against his showing his merits.

So to post-lockdown and a Flat return at Pontefract in late September where he was a ridiculously-easy winner of a two-mile handicap off 94. The 4lb rise which followed in this year’s Cesarewitch could not prevent a repeat fourth place, this time to another Mullins ‘job’, Great White Shark, a six-year-old mare lined up for the purpose and a ridiculously-easy winner under Jason Watson.

Graham Lee set off at the front of the 34-strong line-up and Not So Sleepy did nothing to suggest his powers had declined. Less positive were my feelings after his abortive challenge for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last month when he jinked and jettisoned Paddy Brennan at the first flight of the race won so impressively by Epatante.

Lastly to Ascot at the weekend, off 2lb lower than in the “real” Betfair in February and, inexplicably with hindsight, Not So Sleepy was allowed to start at 20-1. I, like many others, was fooled by the trio of hurdles mishaps and temporarily forgetful of his Ascot hurdles and solid Flat form. Fortunately, some less short-sighted members and a few pals reading the From The Stables newsletter I edit every day, kept the faith and profited accordingly.

‘Twas ever thus, don’t do as I do, do as I say, or vice versa!

- TS