18 years. That’s how long James Doyle’s career as a flat racing jockey has now spanned. It’s undoubtedly been a successful vocation for the 34-year-old, who has teamed up with the esteemed Godolphin Racing group since 2014, with major victories in all four corners of the globe. Yet, until recently, he’d never won one of the five British Classis.
As the two-decade mark approached, the Cambridgeshire native must have been beginning to question if he’d ever add one of Britain’s big five titles to his glittering résumé, which includes an Ascot Gold Cup and a long list of other Group 1 successes. But like London buses, two came along at once as Doyle enjoyed a hugely successive weekend at the Newmarket Guineas Festival.
At this early point of the season though, Doyle will hardly be complaining. If you’re going to win your first career Classic, or your first two in this instance, you might as well get it out of the way at the Guineas — easing the pressure as the flat racing season begins to heat up — and there are few better places on the map than Newmarket, the sport’s HQ.
It was aboard Coroebus in the 2,000 Guineas that Doyle ended his lengthy Classic drought. The second favourite behind his stablemate Native Trail in the SkyBet horse racing betting, the three-year-old pushed along to lead one furlong out and he kept on well to get over the line three quarters of a length clear of his unbeaten counterpart — in what was 1-2 for Appleby, who was also gifted his maiden 2,000 Guineas success.
It was a setback for William Buick, Appleby’s and Godolphin’s number one rider, as the 2018 Derby-winning rider would have liked to add a maiden 2,000 Guineas victory to his impressive CV too. But he was one of the first to congratulate his teammate, while the defending British flat racing Champion Trainer also had a lot of nice things to say about a clearly emotion and overwhelmed Doyle.
The following day at Newmarket, when he won the 1,000 Guineas, Doyle was cool, calm collected. This time the 34-year-old was ridding Cachet for George Boughey, and he made all the running aboard the 16/1 shot in the prestigious one-mile race. Prosperous Voyage, a 33/1 outsider, threatened in final furlong, but Cachet held on to win by a neck.
“I really just got the chance to enjoy today,” Doyle said afterwards.
“We knew she kind of wears her heart on her sleeve and knows this track inside out, so I felt as long as we could get those cheap sectionals midway, I could be brave and let her use her stride into the Dip.
“She goes through it so well that it’s almost like she eyes it up from a way out and she really let rip through it, so it was just a case of hoping she’d hang on to the line.”
It’s worth noting that it was also a first Classic for 30-year-old handler Boughey, who is amazingly only entering his third full season as a licensed trainer!
For Doyle though, he will be hoping that his season isn’t over as far as winning Classic are concerned. The 34-year-old will likely be in the saddle of either With The Moonlight or Life Of Dreams, who are currently priced at 15/2 and 8/1 respectively, in the Oaks, while he could be booked for Walk Of Stars (9/1) or New London (12/1) in the Derby.
Whether he wins another Classic this season, or ever again in his career for that matter, is a different topic though. You could see how much it meant to him when he won the 2,000 Guineas and he certainly won’t rest on his laurels now he has doubled his tally!