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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.

Surge of support continues for Hollie Doyle in BBC Personality stakes

Money has continued to pour in on Hollie Doyle to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday evening.

The record-breaking rider was the general 9-4 second-favourite on Friday afternoon – having been a 33-1 chance when betting opened on the announcement of the six nominees. Formula One star Lewis Hamilton is the 2-5 favourite.

Naomi Lawson, of Great British Racing who have been behind a campaign to push Doyle’s claims, said: “It’s all very exciting, and I think it shows the feeling within the industry for Hollie.

“It’s an honour to be shortlisted in the first place, but now everyone is getting behind her for Sunday.

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“The fact she’s the only woman on the shortlist will appeal to a lot of people, and she’s such an inspiring story because – while it has been a meteoric rise – it is based on the back of really hard work.

“Another great part of the story is just how starry-eyed both she and Tom (Marquand, partner) are. There’s that good story of how they basically won Champions Day between them, carried four trophies to their car and just burst out laughing.

“What she has been saying lately is that, while this has been an amazing year, she doesn’t want it to be the best she ever has – and that shows her ambition.”

Doyle has used Guy Jewell as her agent since 2015, and the partnership seems destined to last a lot longer yet.

“I’m immensely proud of Hollie – she has a fantastic work ethic and is an absolute pleasure to work with every day,” he said.

“Together we set two targets this year – to ride a Group winner and to ride 100 winners again. She reached both of those and so much more, which shows just how far she has come.

“I was delighted when she won the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year award – which is a huge achievement in itself – and to be nominated for BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year is massive for racing and testament to all she has achieved this year. I’m just glad those achievements are being recognised, and hopefully everyone votes for her on Sunday.”

Billie Thomas, who teaches at Radnor and Hereford Pony Club and taught Doyle to ride, aged eight, said: “Hollie has always been very dedicated, and she used to help her brother out a lot.

“From a young age, Hollie was good at cross-country and mounted games, but racing has always been in her blood. We used to have races around the fields, and she just loved it!

“Hollie was so kind and helpful with new members of the Pony Club, and I think this is something that has carried through to her career.

“She has always shown determination and patience and from a young age learnt to ride young and novice horses, which has helped make her into a good rider.

“I am very proud of what she has achieved so far, and she is a great role model for women in sport.”