French Oaks: Hollie Doyle bags first Classic success

Sun 19 Jun 2022
 Nashwa and Hollie Doyle win the Prix de Diane (Dyga/
Nashwa and Hollie Doyle win the Prix de Diane (Dyga/

Hollie Doyle struck for her first Classic success in an historic result to the Prix de Diane as the leading rider prevailed aboard Nashwa in a thrilling victory at Chantilly.

Doyle was at her powerful best to see out victory, placing Nashwa in a prominent position throughout after a smart start from a low draw and then seeing off the determined challenge of 50-1 runner-up La Parisienne under veteran rider Gerald Mosse by a neck to bring up a famous success in the colours of retained owner Imad Al Sagar.

Nashwa was last seen finishing a creditable third in the Oaks at Epsom and was turning out just 16 days later for this French equivalent for trainers John and Thady Gosden.

Doyle said: “It feels pretty good. When I was pulling up I couldn’t find the words to describe it really.

“I’ve got a lot of people to thank. Without Imad Al Sagar (owner) I don’t know if I would ever have been in the position to get an opportunity like this. These types of horses are hard to come upon and I’m only 25, so it’s relatively early on in my career and I feel pretty lucky.

“I felt very vulnerable at the two-furlong pole, I’m not going to lie. It was a muddling race and I felt beforehand someone would be a bit more decisive pace-wise than they were. I didn’t really want to be where I was, but she was very relaxed and happy to be one off the rail with a bit of company either side.

“She’s versatile and responsive when needs be. When the second horse came to my girths she really dug deep, which was great to see.”

The rider was congratulated shortly after her victory by her husband Tom Marquand, who finished seventh aboard Zellie.

Doyle added: “I think he was just as happy as I was. We’re always pretty happy for each other, so I think he was delighted.

“I was pretty confident off the back at Epsom. We felt coming back in trip was what she needs and it’s proven to be the answer. She retains a lot of class and I think she could be even better next year.

“If you’d said to me three years ago that I would be riding in a Classic for Mr Gosden I’d have laughed. To be in this position is incredible and when you ride at this level, the trainer has done all they can and the owner has put you in position, it’s down to me on the day.

“I just expect a lot from myself and I don’t want to let people down. You have to prepare yourself to be at your best when given the opportunity and that’s what I try and do.”

John Gosden was full of praise for Doyle, saying: “The owner-breeder Imad Al Sagar said to me two or three years ago that he had two or three jockeys he was looking at and wanted to retain a jockey. He showed me the list and I said ‘Hollie Doyle’, and I know other people would back me on that.

“She’s hugely talented and horses run for her. She’s incredibly meticulous and hard-working and she analyses things properly.

“The race didn’t work out how we thought, but we did have the Plan B to stay forward if that occurred and she’s shown herself as a class rider and the filly is a class filly who was beautifully ridden.

“I am proud and Thady is extremely proud because it’s the youth team teaming up again. It’s quite obvious that I’ll be surplus to requirements quite soon with the youthful Thady and Hollie!”

Nashwa looks set for a mid-season break before being prepared for a return to France in the autumn.

“I think she’ll have a freshen up. She’s run in two Oaks, which is tough, but she seemed remarkably calm after the race and was having a very natural, normal blow,” Gosden added.

“One race that stands out is the Prix de l’Opera and I think if we make that our big target and come back from there, that would be the way to play it.

“I think she definitely deserves a freshen up and a summer holiday now.”

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