THE horse racing industry has more layers than an onion, more shades than a rainbow, and every now and then, stories emerge that seem darker or even brighter than your typical spectrum of colour.
On the darker side this week, it came to light that the chief executive of the Jockey Club, Delia Bushell, resigned after an independent inquiry upheld allegations of bullying, racist comments, and the circulation of offensive material.
In contrast, the sport enjoyed a brighter storyline in the form of a 5 ft nothing little ray of sunshine known as Hollie Doyle!
Doyle recorded an 899-1 five-timer at Windsor on Saturday for five different trainers, including two at pattern level.
Doyle has ridden 95 winners so far in 2020 with 60 of those winners counting towards the jockey’s championship, placing her in fifth position in the championship table with two months left — narrowly ahead of Jim Crowley while her boyfriend Tom Marquand sits in third place on 70 winners.
Doyle is the latest female star to make an impact in the saddle but the manner in which she conducts herself through the various forms of media is a credit to her and is a huge asset to the sport.
Of course, this success hasn’t been an overnight fame story for women in the saddle; one must consider the trailblazers who have laid the foundations for such a superstar to emerge.
Lest we forget that Hayley Turner became the first female jockey to ride 100 winners in the UK in a calendar year (2008), a record that stood until 2017 when Josephine Gordon broke new ground by riding 106 winners.
It seems the momentum of female jockeys has been gathering pace under both codes in recent years and now Doyle looks well ahead of target to beat her 2019 tally of 116 winners in a calendar year, which in itself is the current record set by a woman.
Turner enjoyed her first Group 1 success when she partnered Dream Ahead to win the July Cup in 2011, tomorrow Doyle will bid to emulate those exploits in the Haydock Sprint Cup where she partners Glen Shiel for her boss Archie Watson.
I was on duty at the Curragh last month to see this horse beat Sonaiyla in the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes on yielding ground. In the aftermath of that race, Watson immediately began formulating a plan for this six-year-old gelding, opting to stick to six furlongs at Haydock instead of a return trip to the Curragh for the Flying Five Sprint next weekend.
Realistically, Glen Shiel has an outsiders chance tomorrow against the likes of Dream Of Dreams, Hello Youmzain (last year’s winner) and Golden Horde to name a few, but the fact that Doyle is now consistently getting opportunities at the highest level can only mean one thing — it’s only a matter of time before a second woman rides a Group 1 winner in Britain.
While top-level races always take precedence in sporting media, it’s fair to say Kempton’s September Stakes will attract more attention than your average Group 3 all-weather event tomorrow afternoon.
This race is likely to be Enable’ final race before her historic bid for a third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the penultimate start of her glittering career.
Juddmonte’s mighty mare beat Crystal Ocean in this race two seasons ago before regaining her Arc crown. She will be insanely short in the market but this isn’t a betting race. This is racing’s most famous horse running on home soil for the final time — let’s hope everything goes smoothly for Frankie Dettori at 2:35pm tomorrow afternoon.
Across the Atlantic, many Americans will take a brief recess from conventions, protests, polls, and debates to enjoy the Kentucky Derby which is due off at midnight tomorrow, Irish time.
The market leaders are drawn wide in the 18 runner field which shouldn’t hinder their chances.
All eyes will be on the hot favourite Tiz The Law who will break from gate 17 but Bob Baffert is always a trainer to fear in these events as he bids for a record-equalling sixth win in America’s greatest race.
The autumn surge is just beginning.
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