Power couple Doyle and Marquand dominate Champions Day

Sportsbeat
·4 min read
Glen Shiel and Hollie Doyle after winning The Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot - her first Group One success
Glen Shiel and Hollie Doyle after winning The Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot - her first Group One success

By James Toney

Racing’s power couple left Ascot's Qipco Champions Day with a boot full of champagne and trophies and their already burgeoning reputations truly enhanced.

Hollie Doyle - who this week broke her own record for winners ridden by a woman in a year - made history with her first Group One success.

And then partner Tom Marquand continued his season to remember as William Haggas’s Addeybb denied Magical the defence of her showpiece Champions Stakes title, Aidan O'Brien's charge finishing third after jockey Ryan Moore found himself stuck in traffic.

Frankie Dettori drew a blank from short-priced favourites Stradivarius and Palace Pier, who started odds on in the Long Distance Cup and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

That meant talk of his potential five-timer in the quality six race card quickly evaporated, leaving Doyle to take advantage at the double.

First she piloted Trueshan to victory in the Long Distance Cup and then she landed the biggest win of her career, claiming a dramatic photo finish in the Sprint Stakes as Archie Watson's Glen Shiel denied long-shot Brando on the nod.

“It is a dream come true, a massive dream come true, especially on this horse. Everyone in the yard adores him," said Doyle. "This means so much but I'm really happy people are now seeing me as just a jockey and not a female jockey.

"Archie kept stepping him back and back in trip and I’m not going to lie, even I doubted it, but this is obviously the key to him. My heart sunk again when I got joined on the line, I thought he had just nabbed me. It was too close for comfort really.

"I thought that I would be doing well to hold on like I did but he is such a game horse. He is incredible."

In addition to her two wins, Doyle banked two seconds. In the last race, the Balmoral Handicap, she finished just behind Marquand on Jessica Harrington's Njord, as the day finished with the Hungerford household enjoying a deadlocked 2-2 score draw.

The diminutive Doyle is barely five foot tall but is as hard as nails. She's up at 5am every day, works seven days a week and probably spends more time in her car - racing between tracks - than she does in bed.

Her future was perhaps never in doubt, her father was a jockey and she was on a horse virtually as soon as she could walk.

From her first wins at Pony Club her ambition was clear and one day after receiving her GCSE results, she packed her bags as left Herefordshire for Wales, riding for maverick trainer David Evans - whose school of hard knocks provided a foundation for success.

Marquand admits he is in awe of his girlfriend's fierce work ethic, recalling how during the dark days of lockdown she spent hours in the garage pounding out furlongs on their racehorse simulator, a blue metal torture contraption that doesn’t need sugar lumps.

After she'd set her latest record this week, he’d said he thought the best was still to come. They wouldn’t have dreamed it would happen just 48 hours later?

Asked if this was the perfect moment to propose, he said: "It might be on the cards but I've not got a ring ready yet!

"We are so lucky to be with each other, enjoying these moments. We've been together since we were 14 and never would have believed where we'd be eight years later with our racing. It's been a phenomenal year for both us and it means so much to share it.

“I’m so, so proud of Hollie. All she does is get up every day and graft and to ride her first Group One for Archie Watson is brilliant because he’s played such a big part in her career. There’s no one, genuinely no one, who deserves it more.”