‘To be seen as on a par with Lewis Hamilton and Tyson Fury blows my mind’: Record-breaking jockey Hollie Doyle on her ‘crazy’ nomination for BBC SPOTY, the lockdown investment that made her stronger than ever… and why she’ll be even better next year
- Jockey Hollie Doyle has scaled new heights but wants to keep on improving
- She had a record-breaking season and could be Sports Personality of the Year
- Doyle thought agent was joking when he informed her she was on BBC shortlist
Jockey Hollie Doyle intended to strike a line through 2020, disregard it altogether. A year where she hoped to build on and try to eclipse her record of 116 winners from the season before was merely a pipe dream as the coronavirus pandemic struck.
But on Sunday night the 24-year-old finds herself in with a shot at being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Hollie Doyle (pictured in October) has scaled new heights and became leading light in racing
The Flat jockey has had a remarkable year, including winning her first Group One at Ascot
She became first female to ride a winner at Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship
‘I was quite amused by it – I just didn’t believe it – it’s crazy.’
Doyle thought her agent was playing a joke on her when he informed her she was on the six-person shortlist for the renowned gong but an unprecedented year has been an extraordinary one for the young rider.
She recorded her first Royal Ascot winner on board the Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon and weeks later she rode an 889-1 five-timer at Windsor, making her the first female jockey to claim five winners at a meeting.
Doyle continued to make the headlines as she smashed her British record of 116 winners in a year by a female rider and claimed her first Group One success on British Champions Day at Ascot.
Just last week she made more history by becoming the first woman to secure victory at the prestigious Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship after guiding Harmony N Blessed first past the post.
‘When you’re younger and you’re growing up you have these ambitions in your brain but this year when we were delayed with the whole season because of covid I just wrote it off but I just can’t believe it really,’ she says.
She recorded her first Royal Ascot winner on board the Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon
‘I just take it as it comes but I rode over 100 winners last year for the first time and I really wanted to back that up so it wasn’t a one off.
‘With the delay I thought whatever I do this year, however many winners I have is a bonus under the circumstances. It’s been pretty crazy, I never thought it would have been this good.’
Doyle and her peers, including fellow Flat rider and partner Tom Marquand, had to bide their time as racing was shut down for 10 weeks in the spring but she admits the hiatus gave her the chance to return even stronger.
‘I used that time to train and try and make myself as good as I could because I was looking forward to this year,’ she says.
‘I think I was stronger and fitter than I’ve ever been coming into the summer because I had so much time to train.
Doyle and her partner Tom Marquand, also a jockey, had to be patient during racing shutdown
Doyle works out on simulator in May as she trained hard to be ready for the delayed season
‘Whereas I normally do train but not every day because of the riding commitments so I think that was a massive bonus, really to have had that time to prepare and get strong.’
Race meetings were replaced by home workouts while Doyle and Marquand invested in road bikes as the pair swapped one saddle for another and cycled around 20 miles a day to keep up their fitness levels.
‘We went out every day. Obviously it kills a lot of time so it was ideal. It was something that I wasn’t as good at as Tom but I just stuck with it because I knew how beneficial it was,’ Doyle recalls.
The hard work has certainly paid off and Doyle could become the first jockey since Sir Anthony McCoy a decade ago to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year to cap off a remarkable season.
‘Apart from my Group One winner this year it would probably be the biggest achievement of my life for sure,’ she admits.
Doyle has been nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year after record-breaking season
However Doyle, who is looking forward to a week off after Christmas to reflect on the whirlwind season, has not let her mind contemplate winning on Sunday but rather sees her nomination as an opportunity for racing to be in the spotlight.
‘I don’t even see this for me personally. I hope to just represent the industry as a whole and I hope it can open doors and showcase the sport to a broader audience,’ she adds.
A year that was going to be knocked on the head has taken Doyle to unimaginable heights but she has no intention of allowing 2020 to be regarded as the greatest period of her career.
‘I just want to better myself every year and I realise how hard it’s going to be after this year,’ she says. ‘But I don’t want this to be the best year of my life. I want to do better.’
To find out more about Hollie Doyle’s 2020 season please visit greatbritishracing.com.