Praise pours in for Hollie Doyle after landmark Classic victory

Mon 20 Jun 2022

Leading racing figures have paid tribute to the trailblazing Hollie Doyle after she broke new ground when landing the first Classic victory of her career.

The 25-year-old partnered John and Thady’s Gosden’s Nashwa in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly on Sunday, the French equivalent of the Oaks.

The three-year-old was previously seen finishing a gallant third in the Oaks itself at Epsom, prior to which she was the winner of a Listed race at Newbury and a novice event at Haydock.

Those performances saw Nashwa sent off as the 3-1 favourite in France and Doyle thrived under the pressure of the ride as she fought off outsider La Parisienne in the final furlong to triumph by a short neck.

The achievement is another significant marker in Doyle’s ascendant career and makes her the first female rider to have won a major European Classic.

Nashwa is owned by Imad Al Sagar and was bred by his Blue Diamond bloodstock operation, an outfit whose move to employ Doyle as a retained rider in July 2020 has proved a shrewd one.

“The great thing is that we’ve moved away from calling her a good female jockey, now we’re just calling her a very good jockey,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Al Sagar. “I think she’s really established herself in the top rank now.

“Imad is a forward thinker. He takes a lot of care and trouble over his whole racing and breeding business, a lot of thought went into appointing Hollie and they have certainly repaid each other.

“There’s nothing better (than winning a Classic), it’s the height of what everyone is trying to achieve.”

Doyle has previously praised Nashwa’s level-headed, professional temperament, an assessment to which Grimthorpe quipped: “That’s exactly what Nashwa would say about Hollie, by the way!

“Nashwa’s temperament is so brilliant, she handled all the preliminaries really well. Of course it was hot travelling over there on the Saturday and the race panned out almost as planned, which was really exciting.

“She showed a great turn of foot and it was a very smart performance having had quite a tough race in the Oaks days before. To do that, and to do it in the style that she did, quickening really well, it was exciting.

“It was great, it is Imad’s first homebred Classic winner and that is vital for Blue Diamond Stud and of course all the team who who work there. It has given everyone a great boost, but most pleasing of all was her performance.”

Doyle, who cut her teeth on the pony racing circuit, was previously apprenticed to Richard Hannon’s stable alongside fellow rider and future husband Tom Marquand.

Doyle’s spell at the stable came shortly after Hannon had taken over the licence from his father, Richard Hannon senior, but the latter remains involved in the yard and has been proud to see how its pupil has risen through the ranks.

“She was apprentice to us here for some time, she’s a very good jockey,” he said.

“It’s great, her first Classic, she’s a good rider, very good.

“She was always a hard-worker, she’s a really nice girl and everything she’s achieved, she’s achieved through hard work.

“We had her husband here too, Marquand, we’ve had them all, they’ve done very well and I’m glad they have. I can’t tell you how much I just enjoy watching them.”

Gerald Mosse, second aboard La Parisienne, is the joint winning-most rider of the Prix de Diane having lifted the trophy five times, his first success coming aboard Francois Boutin’s Resless Kara in 1988.

Thirty four years on from that victory the veteran rider saw history made as Doyle defeated him in this year’s renewal, with the Frenchman then reaching over to shake her hand as the two jockeys pulled up after crossing the line.

“We are sportspeople, we do the same job and the one who wins should be congratulated by the public and the riders,” he said.

“It was a natural reaction, I was very pleased for her. Not so pleased for me! But that’s competition, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

“It is probably hard to even realise with everything that is happening, maybe later she will understand how significant it is for her to be the first one. It is a privilege.

“I first won back in 1988, I was very happy for her, as a young jockey, to see her win the race. It was a good feeling to congratulate her and I’m sure if I had won, she would congratulate me!”

Nashwa is likely to remain at a 10-furlong trip for her next outing, with domestic contests like Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes under consideration alongside a return to France for the Prix de l’Opéra and a potential voyage to the Breeders’ Cup at the latter end of the campaign.

“She’s had two pretty tough races within just 16 days so we have got to sit back and look and how she comes out of it,” Grimthorpe said.

“I think we can say she will be at Group One level, most likely 10 furlongs, which leads to the fairly obvious races like the Nassau, the Prix de l’Opéra, perhaps the Breeders’ Cup.

“What happens along the way or how we get there, I don’t know, John will discuss with Imad and we will see where we want to go.”

How Hollie Doyle has risen to the top

Hollie Doyle’s rise to Classic-winning jockey may seem meteoric, but it has actually been far from it.

Throughout the 25-year-old’s still fledgling yet stellar career, she has exuded the old-fashioned virtues of hard work and humility, and it is only over the past three seasons her career has really reached new heights.

On Sunday she recorded yet another landmark, with her first Classic victory aboard Nashwa in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly.

In 2019 Doyle rode 116 winners in Britain – 10 more than previously achieved by any female jockey.

In 2020 she reached a total of 151 and by October 2021 she had already passed that figure, eventually ending up with 172 for the year.

Yet it is not just the quantity but quality of her successes on the track which has thrust her front and centre in the racing limelight and rightly attracted wider acclaim.

In 2020 there was a first Group One victory on Glen Shiel in the Qipco British Champion Sprint Stakes at Ascot – and a perfect moment when her personality shone through every bit as much as her talent.

Close-up broadcast and print pictures showed the dawning, delighted realisation on her face, as the result of the photo finish was announced in her favour.

Her link with Alan King’s star stayer Trueshan has seen her add to her top-level tally too, with victory in the Goodwood Cup of 2021 as well as a famous Prix du Cadran success over Stradivarius.

Doyle is a gem for racing, and by priceless coincidence she is one half of the sport’s golden couple – because amid her brilliant achievements, her husband and fellow jockey Tom Marquand is operating at an even higher level.

That Champions Day at Ascot saw both of them ride doubles – and, of course, both were Group One winners to boot as they dominated and lit up one of Flat racing’s biggest events of the year.

For Marquand, it came less than a month after he had won his first Classic on Galileo Chrome in the St Leger at Doncaster.

For both, there is a charm to complement the regularity with which they win – and Marquand’s admission the following morning that they had burst into a fit of mutually incredulous giggles as they started the drive back home was perfection.

“After racing we got in the car and looked at each other and started laughing – it’s ridiculous really,” he said.

For both it is the result of huge talent and an enduring enthusiasm.

Doyle’s very first ride came at the age of 17. But the start of the journey dates back much further, to when she first sat on a horse at 18 months old.

Her father Mark rode over jumps and on the Flat as well as training point-to-pointers, and her mother Caroline took part in Arab racing on horses bred by her grandmother.

Doyle soon joined the Radnor and Hereford Pony Club – where four-time National Hunt champion jockey Richard Johnson previously learned and honed his young skills – and while excelling in those ranks, she met Marquand.

Via the British Racing School at Newmarket and then as an apprentice, she has embarked on a remarkable rise through the ranks.

In 2020, the record-breaking jockey with the diminutive frame made ever more giant strides – riding her first Royal Ascot winner, completing a near 900-1 five-timer at Windsor in August, and going global too with her first trip to the Breeders’ Cup and then adding a winner in Hong Kong’s International Jockeys’ Championship.

She had her first rides for Aidan O’Brien last year, and John Gosden had no hesitation in recommending to Nashwa’s owner Imad Al Sagar that she be his retained jockey.

Her third place behind Formula One ace Lewis Hamilton in the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award further underlines the groundswell of admiration and support for Doyle, who has the ability to cut through outside the racing bubble, too.

Throughout, it is a racing certainty that her unaffected, winning smile has remained constant and nobody begrudges her any of the success she gains – a sure sign that what you see with Hollie Doyle is exactly what you get.

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