The Weekly Wrap: What Hollie Did Next

Hollie Doyle in the colours of Imad Al Sagar aboard Extra Elusive | racingfotos.com

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It has been both a good week and a bad week for women in British racing. Hollie Doyle has already featured in this column on several occasions this season but when her achievements make the evening news bulletin on BBC Radio 4, then it's worth revisiting the subject of this fast-rising jockey.

When lockdown started, and racecourses in Europe were shuttered for at least two months, it was Doyle's partner Tom Marquand who grabbed the headlines with his Group 1-winning rides in Australia. Marquand is still 10 wins ahead of Doyle in the abridged Flat jockeys' championship which started in June, and they are both some way adrift of leader Oisin Murphy, but within a top-five pack which also includes William Buick and Ben Curtis. However, Doyle wasn't idle while Marquand was wintering in Australia, and she had already notched a decent tally before racing was called off. She now only needs another fives wins to record her second consecutive century in a calendar year.

Judging by Saturday's performance, she could easily do that in one day. Jockeys are currently restricted to riding at just one meeting per day—a COVID-inspired rule which some hope will remain in place—but Doyle has been making the most of her full books of rides. On Saturday, she set a new record for a female jockey in Britain when winning five of Windsor's nine races, including the two stakes races on the card. Especially pleasing for Doyle was doubtless the fact that she bagged a second Group 3 win aboard Extra Elusive (GB) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) for Imad Al Sagar, with whom she recently signed a retainership. It is said that the Lord rested on the Sabbath, but that wasn't the case for Doyle, who followed up her five-timer 24 hours later with a hat-trick at Yarmouth.

It is fully understandable that female jockeys wish to be referred to simply as jockeys, and there should of course be no distinction between the two sexes. That ridiculous old argument of women not being strong enough has thankfully been consigned to the dustbin by a string of eminently capable riders.

But it is a sad fact that Doyle is the only female in the top 50 in the British jockeys' table. Nicola Currie, Josephine Gordon and Hayley Turner all make it into the top 70, and at a certain stage in recent years, each was very much flavour of the month. It should also be said that the problem of dwindling rides is not one faced solely by women—plenty of young male apprentices have struggled to make that leap into riding as a professional.

The fact that women represent only nine per cent of the top 100 jockeys riding in Britain and 13 per cent in Ireland shows that there is still much room for improvement and encouragement. Thankfully for those following behind her, Hollie Doyle isn't just politely knocking on the door, she's charging through it with a battering ram.

Trouble At The Jockey Club
From the statements issued over the weekend by the Jockey Club and its erstwhile group chief executive Delia Bushell, who resigned her post on Sunday, it is hard to ascertain which is the aggrieved party in what is undoubtedly a sorry tale for racing, whatever the truth may be. Indeed, for the second time in 24 hours, a racing-related story was reported in the wider media, though for a far more negative reason.

Bushell's resignation came after an independent barrister appointed by the Jockey Club apparently upheld allegations made against her by a colleague of bullying, racist remarks and the sharing of offensive material. A sub-committee of three of the Jockey Club board members, referred to as stewards, determined that the review's findings should result in disciplinary action against Bushell, including for gross misconduct.

In effect, she has jumped before she was pushed, but Bushell is clearly not prepared to go gently into what would certainly be a very dark night for her future career if the allegations against her remain unchallenged. Instead, she issued a stinging resignation letter which included counter-bullying claims against the Jockey Club as well as referring to the barrister in question ignoring “evidence of collusion by a number of male witnesses, all senior executives in the Jockey Club, both ahead of the filing of the grievance and during the investigation process itself.”

Bushell, a former managing director of BT Sport who also held several senior roles with the broadcaster Sky, became the first female head of the Jockey Club in September 2019 and acknowledged the potential difficulties faced by racing.

“The years to come will be critical for the sport, as we embrace the opportunities and challenges of innovating for fans and racegoers, appealing to new and more diverse audiences, broadening revenue streams, and driving inward investment,” she said at the time of her appointment.

Nobody could have foreseen the even greater challenges posed by a global pandemic, or indeed that turmoil within British racing's most prestigious organisation, which oversees 15 racecourses and the National Stud, would lead to such a premature and controversial departure. In its former role as racing's rulemaker, the Jockey Club, established in 1750, did not allow women to hold training licences until 1966 or to ride against men in races until the 1970s, a situation admittedly not out of keeping with the more general societal attitudes of that time.

It is concerning however to note in Bushell's resignation letter her comment regarding her former employer as a “male-dominated organisation that has a troubling history of ignoring serious complaints against senior men and which seeks to discredit and ostracise anyone challenging its status quo.”

It seems likely that when more details of this story eventually come to light, it will be in a court of law. Hopefully we might also find out how the details of this matter, which really should have been confidential between employer and employee, have come into the public domain.

Cox Provides First For Many
Ballylinch Stud gave an important helping hand to Lope De Vega (Ire) in his first season with runners when his son Belardo (Ire), who was bred by the stud, became his sire's first Group 1 winner in the Darley Dewhurst S. of 2014.

Belardo, who raced initially for Prince Faisal, was bought by Godolphin while he was still in training and is now at Kildangan Stud with his own first runners in action. But it is Ballylinch which is once again playing a part in the success of a young stallion, with Belardo's first group winner, Isabella Giles (Ire), having been bred at the stud from the G3 Laundry Cottage Stud Firth of Clyde S. winner Majestic Dubawi (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). The 12-year-old mare was bought by Ballylinch Stud from Rabbah Bloodstock for €260,000 at Goffs in 2015.

Isabella Giles was also continuing a great season for the juveniles representing Clive Cox's stable. A week earlier, the trainer had sent out Cobh (Ire) to win the listed Stonehenge S. and become the first stakes winner for Belardo's fellow freshman sire Kodi Bear (Ire), who was also trained by Cox. This followed the G2 Richmond S. victory of Supremacy (Ire), who was in turn the first group winner for this year's leading first-season sire Mehmas (Ire).

Cox has also won this season's G2 Coventry S. with Nando Parrado (GB) (Kodiac {GB}), who was sent off at what now seems an extraordinary price of 150/1 and subsequently finished runner-up to Campanelle (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) in the G1 Darley Prix Morny.

Important Test For Yearling Market
Today (Tuesday) sees the start of the European yearling sales season, a little over two weeks late, and in Doncaster rather than Deauville. A congested autumn calendar has become even more condensed than usual owing to the reshuffling necessary to facilitate the ever-changing coronavirus quarantine restrictions.

Despite great flexibility shown by sales houses and vendors, it remains impossible for buyers and/or agents to get to all the sales in the coming weeks even with most of the Irish sales having been moved to the UK. People returning to Britain following Arqana's postponed Select Sale (Aug. 9 to 11) are still required to undergo 14 days of isolation.

What has become evident following the latest round of horses-in-training action at Tattersalls last week is that buyers are increasingly willing to bid online—though it is certainly less unsatisfactory to do this for horses with racing form rather than young, untested yearlings. At the Tattersalls August Sale, 60% of all lots offered received bids via the internet bidding platform: 79 horses were sold this way, amounting to 1.6 million gns of the sale's total turnover of 8.43 million gns. The underbidders on a further 93 horses in the sale were also online rather than at the sale in person.

The other more notable factor of the last two sales at Tattersalls in July and August has been the remarkably high clearance rate of above 90% for each. This can be construed as both good and bad news. On the one hand, demand remains strong for horses trained in this region. On the other, a high number of the better horses offered in these catalogues were sold to race on abroad, primarily in the Middle East, on top of a fairly steady flow of privately purchased horses throughout the season. This is nothing new, but it certainly feels like it is happening more than ever, particularly when prize-money has plummeted further still in Britain since the resumption of racing after lockdown. Simply, for many owners of British-trained horses rated in the 70 to 100 bracket, the rewards are far greater if you sell rather than continue to race, even successfully.

It's no secret that yearling vendors are approaching the coming weeks with trepidation, a situation exacerbated by rumours of a potential reduction in spending by the Maktoum family. It is also fairly likely that we haven't seen the worst of the repercussions for racing from the desperate and ongoing scenario that is COVID-19. Over the next few weeks a picture will begin to be painted which may not be finished until this time next year.

But, as we have seen in the past, the bloodstock business remains a remarkably resilient industry. The breeze-up and horses-in-training sales of this year have so far held up better than most people expected, though there has of course been a downturn from what has been a fairly buoyant market since bouncing back from the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. Let's hope that the yearling sales can follow suit.

 

 

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