Jockey Hollie Doyle rode her first winner on her very first ride, The Mongoose, in a lady amateur riders’ handicap at Salisbury on May 5, 2013, at the age of 16. Some would put that in the same bracket as those who have beginners luck on online casinos. In fact to push home that point she rode just three winners that season and, having become apprenticed to Richard Hannon, rode just one winner in 2014 and just two in 2015. Indeed, it was not until 2017 that she rode out her claim and became a fully-fledged professional jockey.
Nevertheless, her rise through the ranks has been nothing short of meteoric. In 2018, she rode a highly respectable 54 winners, but the following year rode 116, breaking the previous record for the most winners in a calendar year, 106, set by Josephine Gordon in 2017. In 2020, she broke her own record with 151 winners; highlights included her first Group race winner, her first Group 1 winner, a retainer with owner Imad Al Sagar and a five-timer at Windsor. Doyle finished fourth in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship and was named ‘Sportswoman of the Year’ by the ‘Sunday Times’.
Doyle began 2021 in similar vein, riding another five-timer at Kempton on March 3. At the time of writing, less than three weeks into the Flat Jockeys’ Championship – which, nowadays, does not start until the Guineas Festival at Newmaket – she lies joint-fifth in the table with 10 winners from 60 rides, at a strike rate of 17%. As far as the jockeys’ title is concerned, Doyle is a top-priced 6/1 to become the first female champion jockey in British racing history.
Female jockeys are impressing around the world now really, from the likes of former trendsetter and two time Kentucky Oaks winner Rosie Napravnik in the USA to leading group one winner Michelle Payne in Australia. Prior to recent years whenever you heard of racing or gambling in general such best australia online casino guides, it was all geared towards men. It’s more than apparent though, from the UK examples and others, that ability was never the impediment to recognition and success. It was instead age old prejudices that are thankfully slowly ebbing away. About time too.
The majority of horse races run in Britain are handicap races which, as the Encyclopaedia Britannica rightly points out, represent ‘an outright repudiation of the classic concept that the best horse should win’. However, the aim of the handicapping system is to create competitive races, in which each horse has, at least in theory, an equal chance of winning.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) employs a team of handicappers, who analyse every horse in every race and award a ‘performance figure’ which, in turn, is used as a basis for a ‘handicap rating’. A handicap rating expresses, in imperial pounds, the ability of a horse in the eyes of the BHA and determines the weight it is allocated in a handicap race. The horses that are eligible to run in a particular handicap race, in terms of handicap ratings, are stipulated in the race conditions. In, say, a handicap open to three-year-olds rated 0-55, a horse rated 55 would be allocated top weight, of 9st 7lb, while a horse rated 54 would be allocated 1lb less, or 9st 6lb, and so on.
Trainers often query the treatment of their horses by the BHA handicapping team but, while performance assessment may include informed opinion, as well as fact, each handicapper must provide a logical, reasoned explanation for any decision. Typically, a handicapper seeks to identify a horse that runs to the same level of form as its current handicap rating, or has run to the same level in recent races, and therefore provides a ‘benchmark’ for the race being assessed. Thereafter, the relative merits of the other runners in the race can be assessed using a sliding scale of pounds-per-length figures, ranging from 3lb a length for five-furlong races to 1lb a length for races over fifteen furlongs on the Flat, or National Hunt races.
When looking at the racing calendar there is one race that is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of its profile – the Aintree Grand National. With last year being an unfortunate exception to the rule, it’s the race of office sweepstakes, of choosing a horse because of its quirky name, of going for that ambitious, big priced outsider.
There is such tradition to the Grand National, which on the whole has to be a good thing. Though as Katie Walsh highlights in this Betway segment, some traditions outstay their welcome. It wasn’t until the late 70s and because of the Sex Discrimination Act that a woman even started taking part in the Grand National (Charlotte Brew in 1977). Participation was patchy over the years but in 2012 Walsh herself placed third in the Grand National. This was the best performance by a female jockey to date. With three female jockeys taking part this year, surely it’s only a matter of times before we have our first female winner. It will be a big achievement; one that is long overdue.
Owned by John Hales and trained by Paul Nicholls, Neptune Collonges was a top-class staying chaser with three Grade One victories to his name. Indeed, he ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup four times, finishing a closing third, beaten 7 lengths and short head, behind stable companions Denman and Kauto Star in 2008. However, as far as the man in the street is concerned, Neptune Collonges is best known for winning the 2012 Grand National, which was the last to be run over the traditional distance of 4 miles 4 furlongs.
The son of useful jumps sire Dom Alco spent the whole of the 2009/10 season on the sidelines after sustaining a tendon injury in the 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup and had won just once in nine starts since returning to action at the start of the 2010/11 season. He had looked rejuvenated when failing by just a neck to win the Grand National Trial, over 3 miles 3½ furlongs, at Haydock, under 11 st 5lb, in February, 2012 but, even so, victory at Aintree appeared unlikely.
On Grand National Day, his intended jockey, Ruby Walsh, was injured in a fall in the Aintree Hurdle earlier on the card so, with Daryl Jacob deputising, and shouldering 11st 6lb, he was sent off at odds of 33/1 to give Paul Nicholls his first National winner. That he did, but only after a thrilling finish, in which he reeled in the leader, Sunnyhillboy, in the final stride to win by the minimum possible margin, a nose. Connections had already decided that, win or lose, Neptune Collonges would be retired immediately after the Grand National and, true to his word, Hales said, ‘He’ll never race again. That’s it.’