‘If you push hard enough you can achieve any­thing’

Hollie Doyle’s strong drive has put her first cen­tury of wins in sight, writes Mar­cus Army­tage

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport -

Hollie Doyle is just seven win­ners short of be­com­ing the third fe­male Flat jockey to ride 100 win­ners in a cal­en­dar year, and to­day she has the chance of be­com­ing the first to ride a win­ner on Qipco Bri­tish Cham­pi­ons Day, when she part­ners the mud-lov­ing Glen Shiel in the Bal­moral Hand­i­cap.

Given that she rides for the pro­lific Archie Wat­son, she should join Hay­ley Turner and Josephine Gor­don in the 100 club and, with two months left, Gor­don’s record of 106 win­ners is in her sights.

If Cieren Fal­lon, the cham­pion ap­pren­tice, has as­tounded peo­ple by hav­ing sat on a horse for the first time only two years ago, Doyle’s up­bring­ing was more tra­di­tional. Her par­ents both rode in races and she was in the same Here­ford­shire pony club, al­beit not at the same time, as four-time jumps cham­pion Richard John­son.

“I didn’t have spec­tac­u­lar ponies, I had naughty, mod­er­ate ones but they taught me to ride,” she re­calls. “When I rode in my first pony race, aged nine, I knew that I was in train­ing to be a jockey. I only rode four or five win­ners be­cause the pony wasn’t good enough but it made me ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive and I was al­ways in a hurry, ex­pect­ing too much, when things just don’t hap­pen that quickly. The day af­ter my GCSES, I packed my bags and joined David Evans, who I had worked for at week­ends.”

In May 2013, she had her first ride un­der rules as an am­a­teur on The Mon­goose at Sal­is­bury. Though 5ft and 8st now, then she was “6st, about 4ft tall and couldn’t carry the 3½st of lead” in her sad­dle. Much to ev­ery­one’s sur­prise, The Mon­goose won by half a length. “Pulling up, it was so emo­tional,” she says. “I couldn’t talk and I re­mem­ber cry­ing.”

Aber­gavenny-based Evans is some­thing of a mav­er­ick but he gave Doyle a per­fect ground­ing. “If I’d walked straight into Lam­bourn or New­mar­ket, it would have been too easy. Af­ter two years with Dave, nowhere felt like hard work.”

Her next move was to Richard Han­non, but, be­fore she went, she spent two months at Santa Anita in Cal­i­for­nia. “That opened my eyes,” she ex­plains. “Apart from one ski­ing hol­i­day, I’d barely left Here­ford­shire, so Los An­ge­les was a bit of a shock. But I’d got to the stage at Dave’s where I was not im­prov­ing and I lacked be­lief in my­self. At Han­non’s though, I was rid­ing good horses for the best

‘I don’t think girls are dis­ad­van­taged, if you have that at­ti­tude you should not be rid­ing’

trainer and I knew if it didn’t work it would be be­cause I was no good. I reck­oned if I worked my butt off it would work out so I went in all guns blaz­ing.”

Richard Han­non Snr owned a few horses and put Doyle up. “If it wasn’t for him, I might not have got go­ing,” she re­flects. “But it gave me a great plat­form, I be­gan rid­ing the good horses in their work, I got an agent, started to pick up rides and be­gan to im­prove. I was a bit of a slow burner, but it was still too slow for me. I’m never sat­is­fied.”

Ev­ery year, Han­non pro­duces good ap­pren­tices. “But it’s up to you to push on to the next level,” she points out. “When Hay­ley Turner re­tired [ini­tially], she ad­vised me to use her agent, Guy Jewell, and, al­most overnight, my rides tre­bled.

“I started rid­ing out for Archie Wat­son. Once a week be­came twice and even­tu­ally he asked if I’d come in four times a week. I had to sit back and as­sess it but it was a bit of a no-brainer.

“Richard [Han­non] has Tom [Mar­quand, her boyfriend], Sean Levey, Pat Dobbs and Rossa Ryan. I thought ‘How of­ten am I go­ing to pop into their brain at dec­la­ra­tion time?’ I didn’t want to be the last choice. But I still love rid­ing out there.”

Doyle con­cedes rac­ing is still a bit old fash­ioned in many ways but fe­male jock­eys are no longer alone in their own chang­ing room. “When I was grow­ing up, it was, pretty much Hay­ley Turner and Cathy Gan­non. I was fix­ated on them. But now it’s go­ing the right way, there are way more girls com­ing on stream.

“I don’t think we’re at any dis­ad­van­tage. If you go in with the at­ti­tude that girls are dis­ad­van­taged you prob­a­bly shouldn’t be in it. Hay­ley, Jose [Gor­don], Nicola [Cur­rie], Cathy – they’ve proven that, tac­ti­cally, they are good enough if not bet­ter than the men and the phys­i­cal equal. If you push your­self far enough you can achieve any­thing.”

Doyle reg­u­larly finds her­self up against Mar­quand. “We’ve known each other since we were 15,” she says. “We both want the same thing. When I’m rid­ing, I block out, 100 per cent, the fact that he’s my boyfriend.”

Only big races have eluded Doyle. To­day would be a good start but when jock­eys are boot­ing home 100 win­ners a year it is usu­ally only a mat­ter of time be­fore the good horses and Group races start rolling in. But you get the feel­ing that only when that hap­pens will Doyle’s world be spin­ning at the speed she wants.

Fast track: Hollie Doyle adds to her win­ning tally last month at Bath

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