'I Was Born Competitive': Hollie Doyle Back and Raring For Winners

Hollie Doyle ride 13 winners in Japan at the end of 2023 | Racingfotos

Hollie Doyle has returned to her home country after a successful two-month stint in Japan, where she rode 13 winners from 101 mounts. The arrival of the new year means one thing: the number of winners was dialled back to zero, and the hard work behind the scenes begins again.

As someone who doesn't crave the limelight, Doyle is modest, reserved, and always the ultimate professional. It is fair to say that acknowledging her success doesn't come naturally, but since 2019 she has ridden more than 100 winners in each year, with a career high of 172 in 2021. She finished in the top three jockeys in Britain between 2020 and 2022, and one of her closest rivals is her husband Tom Marquand.

Doyle's former weighing-room colleague Georgia Cox catches up with the leading female rider, whose Group 1 wins in 2023 came aboard Bradsell (GB), Nashwa (GB) and Trueshan (Fr), and who has four winners on the board already this year.

The Japanese fans look like they could elevate any race day. How did it feel to be a part of that atmosphere? 

The fans are unbelievable. It's quite incomparable to anywhere else I've been. Their love and respect for the horse is on a different level. The merchandise the JRA provides is incredible and the fans are able to purchase “turfies”  which are replicas of their favourite horses. After you've ridden a winner, you spend a long time signing autographs and merchandise for them. If I was in the next race, I'd feel guilty that I had to go and couldn't sign everyone's, as they are so keen and passionate. I remember walking out of Nakayama on the last day and there were hundreds of people queued up for Tom and I to sign things. It's very sweet, the fans themselves are in it for the right reasons.

How were the local trainers in welcoming you as an overseas rider?

The local trainers are generally very good working with overseas riders. The trainer you're based with isn't necessarily your biggest supporter. This year I was associated with Hiroyasu Tanaka, the trainer of Lemon Pop (Lemon Drop Kid). He's a young and up-and-coming trainer who spent a lot of time in France. I have a really good relationship with him, and he threw as many rides as he could at me. However, they have their own jockeys as well, who they are very loyal to. I had to prove myself even more after last year, not getting that many winners, but this year back in June I picked up the ride on Italian 1,000 Guineas winner Shavasana (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) to win the G2 Oaks d'Italia for trainer Stefano Botti and Katsumi Yoshida, who is also the owner of Northern Farms, which 12 of my 13 winners were for. It's like everything – it's all about building contacts. To be able to partner Vela Azul (Jpn) (Eishin Flash {Jpn}) in the G1 Japan Cup was a huge opportunity, as was winning on Vibraphone (Jpn) (Drefong) for Noboru Takagi, the trainer of 2023 Dubai World Cup winner Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}). It's a huge step forward on last year's results and I hope to keep building on that.

Tom was attached to Keisuke Miyata, who was the rider of Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) for many years, and he's been with him for two years now. He has always made us feel apart of his team and tried to support us as much as he could.

In the past few seasons, you've been able to sample racing in a variety of districts, from Australia to America, Japan, and Hong Kong. That must have been a huge eye-opener. If you could introduce something they do to racing over here, what would it be? 

There is so much we could take from the way the Japanese have built their domain. We have a lot to envy when it comes to the logistics of racing in Japan, starting from how the betting turnover goes straight back into the prize-money. They don't cut corners and they appreciate the long game, investing in middle-distance horses, which they are now reaping the benefits from. For anyone who hasn't been it's one to put on the bucket list.

You've ridden in a variety of countries. Is there anywhere you haven't been to yet that you want to experience? 

Since I started, I have always stuck around for the winters to keep the ball rolling through the all-weather season, but the last two winters I've travelled and found it to be a realisation of what more racing has to offer. It's something that I want to explore further. I really enjoy adjusting to the different styles as you see with Ryan Moore, the way he seamlessly fits into anywhere when he is riding around the world.  If the opportunity came up, I'd definitely like to go back and do a stint in Australia and Hong Kong at some point.

You've moved up the ranks within the weighing-room. Has much changed for you? 

A lot has changed but my hunger and drive is bigger than ever. I suppose the only good thing about getting older is the experience you carry, which is worth so much, on and off the track. It's a fast-moving sport and it doesn't take much to fall by the wayside. The fear of that is what keeps me on the ball 24/7.

Can you give us an insight into your mindset?

I'm quite used to the manic lifestyle now. Chaos is my stability, and my stability is chaos. That state of mind is the norm for me. If I have a day off, I have to do something, whether that's a bike ride, gym session, or swimming. If not, I feel like I'm doing a disservice to the owners that I'm riding for the next day. It's just how it works in my mind. If I stopped, I think I'd become disorientated.

Mentality and resilience are two of the biggest things that have got me to this stage.

Is bloodstock something you want to be more involved with? 

I'm intrigued by the bloodstock side of things, and that's definitely amplified since being retained by Imad Al Sagar, owner of Blue Diamond Stud. Analysing their pedigrees, getting to know the families, and seeing the traits they pass down the generations. I really enjoy seeing them as foals and then what they grow into. Seeing it first-hand intensifies how much thought goes into it, and the attention to detail isn't wasted on me. I have a huge amount of respect for any owner-breeder; it's a long, expensive game, and they deserve all the success they get.

You have had much success with trainer Archie Watson: 228 winners and counting. We can see from the outside that he is driven and meticulous in placing his horses. What can you see on the inside that leads to the constant flow of winners?

When I started working alongside Archie, everything accelerated into a different stratosphere. I understand the way he trains, I understand his horses, and how to get the best out of them and do the best job for their owner. I think he is particularly good at getting their all-important black-type on their CV, or just getting the best out of every horse, whatever level that might be at.

Do you have championship dreams?

I think I was born competitive as it's all I can ever remember. I love a challenge, and the challenge of becoming a champion jockey is every jockey's dream, finishing joint-second and third in the table the last few years has meant a lot. I'm lucky to be supported by so many good outfits that train winners for fun. The simple question of 'will you be going for champion jockey this year?' can feel sometimes antagonising, as you never have your foot off the pedal, with permanent blinkers fixed on riding as many winners as possible. It's not like I'm holding back; this is full throttle.

You've been around some of the best in the business. What's the best piece of advice you've been given? 

Keep your head down and work hard.


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