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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.

Mighty Gurkha and Zamaani head Kempton conditions heat

Mighty Gurkha and Zamaani set the standard in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Conditions Stakes – the latest fast-track qualifier at Kempton on Monday.

Both Archie Watson’s Mighty Gurkha and Simon and Ed Crisford’s Zamaani boast official ratings in excess of 100.

Mighty Gurkha provided Hollie Doyle with a first Breeders’ Cup ride in November, while Zamaani was second in Redcar’s Two Year Old Trophy.

The pair met last month with Mighty Gurkha taking second and Zamaani fourth in a blanket finish at Wolverhampton.

Mark Johnston’s Bravado puts his unbeaten record on the line having stretched it to three last time out, while David Evans runs Rohaan, second to Bravado recently.

“Rohaan was a bit unfortunate last time out. It was a misjudged race – the jockey thought he would do what he did before (he had gone from last to first in his previous three races), but it was a better quality of race and the horse had more weight on his back. He did all his work in the last furlong,” said Evans.

“Monday should tell us where we stand with him. I thought the way he won at Newcastle, albeit from a rating of 55, was encouraging. Then he did it well the time after that and has continued to improve.

“He has a bit to find on the ratings with a couple of them, but if he is going to go for the final, he has to take his chance in a race like this.”

Doyle confident as Breeders’ Cup debut nears

Hollie Doyle breaks new ground in another season to remember when she has her first ride at the Breeders’ Cup on Friday.

As well as smashing her own record mark for number of winners in a calendar year by a female jockey, Doyle rode a five-timer at Windsor in August and recorded a double – and two seconds, from five rides – at Ascot on British Champions Day.

Those two Ascot wins included her first Group One success, aboard Glen Shiel for Archie Watson – and it is with the Lambourn trainer that the 24-year-old teams up to partner Mighty Gurkha in the Juvenile Turf Sprint.

The Sepoy colt has shown a good level of form in his six career starts to date, finishing second to Method in a Listed event at Newbury and landing Group Three honours in the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton.

Hollie Doyle with Glen Shiel after victory at Ascot on Champions Day
Hollie Doyle with Glen Shiel after victory at Ascot on Champions Day (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Doyle – who arrived in Kentucky on Wednesday – is hopeful of a good account and said: “The horse is in top form – he’s very relaxed and has taken everything in his stride.

“The track is riding excellent. At the moment it’s probably good, good to firm ground, and I think they are going to put a bit more water on it – which would be ideal for us.

“He’s settled right in, he hasn’t left a drop of food.”

Doyle is also confident Keeneland’s configuration will not prove a hindrance to the chance of Mighty Gurkha.

She added: “He ran on debut at Lingfield and handled the turn very well.

“He’s quite agile – he’s done a lot of growing in a short space of time, so he has grown a lot, but I think he’ll be fine.”

Doyle delighted at Breeders’ Cup opportunity

Hollie Doyle is relishing the chance to cap an amazing campaign with her first ride at the Breeders’ Cup next week.

Fresh from breaking her own British record for the most winners in a calendar year by a female jockey, Doyle enjoyed a Champions Day double at Ascot a fortnight ago – including her first victory at Group One level as Glen Shiel clung on by a nose in the British Champions Sprint.

The 24-year-old will break new ground again in Kentucky, where she has been booked to partner Mighty Gurkha for Glen Shiel’s trainer Archie Watson in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Doyle said: “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve always wanted to ride at the Breeders’ Cup – it’s a massive occasion and a good opportunity after a good year.

“I’ve ridden a winner in Qatar before, but I’ve never even ridden in America apart from trackwork.”

Doyle has been on board Mighty Gurkha for all but one of his six career starts to date, including a hugely impressive debut success at Lingfield in early June.

Mighty Gurkha on his way to debut success at Lingfield
Mighty Gurkha on his way to debut success at Lingfield (Mark Cranham/PA)

She is under no illusions about the task facing her mount at Keeneland, with American speedballs like Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal set to be in opposition in the five-and-a-half-furlong Grade Two.

She added: “The American horses have got such great speed and are trained round a turn, so it will be a tough ask, but it will be a good experience, and I want to take all the experience I can get really – I’m grateful for the opportunity.

“I fly out on Tuesday – we need to be there by Wednesday to check in and do the (coronavirus) tests and stuff.”