Hollie Doyle blog: Sky Sports Racing ambassador all set for Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship | Racing News
Sky Sports Racing ambassador Hollie Doyle is set for a big Wednesday out in Hong Kong, taking part for a third time in the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Honour to be riding in Hong Kong Challenge
Being invited to ride against the best in the world in the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley on Wednesday for the third time is such a great honour.
It’s the most prestigious jockeys’ challenge in the world, featuring four races worth around £750,000, and I’m hoping to be lucky enough to ride a winner on such a big stage – just as I did last year and on my debut back in 2020.
Becoming the first female jockey to ride a winner in Hong Kong on Harmony N Blessed two years ago still rates among my greatest achievements and it was special to share second place with my husband Tom (Marquand), Mickael Barzalona and James McDonald 12 months ago.
Thrilled to be riding against Aussie legend
It’s a privilege to be helping make history at Happy Valley on Wednesday. It’ll be the first time two leading female jockeys have competed on the same card when Australia’s Jamie Kah makes her Championship debut. She’s the most successful female rider down under with an amazing eight Group Ones to her name and over 1,100 wins.
But the jockey we probably all have to beat is five-times Hong Kong champion Zac Purton, who won the challenge last year and is out to score a record fourth success in the event.
Tom is taking part again and we’ll also be joined by two familiar faces, with our own Ryan Moore – a dual winner himself – competing for the 16th time and Silvestre De Sousa qualifying from a strong pool of Hong Kong-based riders.
James McDonald is the leading contender for the Longines World’s Best Jockey award and would no doubt love to win this title, too, having finished second twice. We’ll also be up against top Japanese rider Yuga Kawada, a Hong Kong Cup winner on the awesome Loves Only You.
Good chances but two poor draws
I can’t profess to know a lot about the four horses I ride but I’m happy to partner Doug Whyte’s Universal Crown in the first leg, a 1000m sprint. We have a tough wide draw to overcome but he’s a speedy horse who ran well over an additional furlong last month.
My starting position is kinder in the second leg over the extended mile on David Hall’s Kung Fu Tea who was in good form earlier this year over 1400m, and I’m right up against the inside rail in stall one on Francis Lui’s Rising From Ashes in the third leg, another 1650m race.
Leg four, another sprint, leaves me with some work to do again from stall 11. I ride Dennis Yip’s Stormtrouper, a son of Toronado who was a course-and-distance winner last year, and also have four other rides on the card for local trainers.
I’ve learned from past experience that Happy Valley is a pretty technical test and you certainly need to have your wits about you. Things can happen in the blink of an eye so it’s important to get a good early position.
Frustrating start to life in Japan!
Tom and I are really enjoying our stint in Japan. He got off to a flying start but it took me a long time to get a winner which was frustrating as I’m quite an impatient person!
It was such a relief when it came on Reveur at Tokyo last month and I was delighted to add to that with an exciting pillar-to-post win on Pure Judge in the Ichikawa Stakes at Nakayama at the weekend.
I’ve been getting plenty of rides and support from various trainers but it’s just been hard to get on the better horses. Jockeys are booked around three weeks in advance over here, where we only race at the weekend, so most of the better rides were spoken for when we arrived.
It’s ultra-competitive with five international riders working on short-term licences but I’m hoping some bigger opportunities will come my way through December. We’re going to be racing at Nakayama now and they have Group races every weekend, which might help.
Life not so bad in jockey jail!
In Japan the rules that jockeys have to abide by are very different to those back home. Every Friday afternoon the riders engaged at the weekend’s fixture have to check into isolated accommodation referred to as ‘Jockey Jail’.
We’re not allowed phones or access to the internet until we come out after racing on Sunday night, which in some ways isn’t such a bad thing. Despite the language barrier everyone is really friendly and I’ve got used to it now.
I actually don’t mind it because it means you’re in one place so you can relax and concentrate on your forthcoming rides without worrying about travelling to the races.
Early starts but plenty of down time
When I came out to Tokyo for two months it seemed like a long time but it’s absolutely flying by. I’m due to return home on Boxing Day but am building some strong relationships with trainers and really hope I can come back and have another go next year.
Tom and I are enjoying the routine and I must admit it’s quite a novelty only to be racing at the weekends. Mondays and Tuesdays are our days off so we’ve been spending our time exploring and seeing the sights.
It’s great to have those two days to re-charge as the weekends are quite tiring but we’re up early on Wednesdays to ride work. We’re out of bed by 4.15am to travel to the training track, which is about an hour and a half away. We usually ride four horses, finishing at about 11.30, so it’s a long morning.
In the afternoon we go the gym to train before repeating the routine on Thursdays. Then on Fridays we go swimming and spend some time going through our weekend rides online before checking into Jockey Jail – to focus on hopefully riding more winners!