Not every jockey can pinpoint the one ride or winner that changed the course of their career. James Doyle can, however. The horse was Cityscape, trained by Roger Charlton, in the 2012 Dubai Duty Free at Meydan. In less than two minutes in the Dubai desert, Doyle became a Group 1 winner and in truth, he hasn’t looked back since.
Doyle is now a man in demand from the big stables, with William Haggas placing his faith in the rider
So what did Doyle take from that first strike at the top level? “Confidence,” he tells Julian Muscat in The Big Interview. “I was starting to wonder whether I was good enough, but it was a massive boost when Roger let me ride Cityscape.”
The victory helped to lay the foundations for a successful association with Roger Charlton and propelled him on to retainers with Khalid Abdullah and, latterly, Godolphin.
Big race rides and winners have come by the hatful and include some of the best and most popular performers of recent years, including Al Kazeem, Kingman, Ribchester, Barney Roy and that grand stayer, Big Orange, sadly out of action for the rest of the year due to a leg injury.
Doyle is now a man in demand from the big stables, with William Haggas placing his faith in the rider, their partnership yielding important winners at the recent Dante meeting at York. His popularity, and the opportunities that are coming his way, explain why he was reluctant to extend his stay in Australia, when stepping in for Godolphin down under following James McDonald’s disqualification for betting.
“It was a great experience,” the jockey explains. “It’s a very different racing style to what I was used to, and it took me out of my comfort zone. To improve in any sport you need to test yourself.
“I’d worked hard in Britain to build up the contacts I have. I would have been walking away from that for a few years and I’m very keen to finish my riding career at home. It’s where I’ve spent the whole of my professional life. I feel there’s quite a bit left to come.”
Mick Channon is also hoping for plenty more exciting days in the sport he adores. The former Southampton and England forward, enjoying his 29th season with a licence, has trained – and bred – a host of outstanding runners without ever having the luxury of either a big owner or a big chequebook at the sales.
The West Ilsley handler has made a blistering start to 2018 and though Dan’s Dream failed to land a blow in the 1,000 Guineas, she remains an exciting prospect for a man who has a resounding answer when asked if, despite his advancing years, he is still ambitious.
“Very much so,” the trainer tells Tim Richards (Talking To, pages 52-57). “Every day you are looking for one of those gems, a Queen’s Logic or a Youmzain.
“It can take a long time to unearth a superstar, there’s no quick fix and everyone is trying to do the same. That’s the buzz. The competing. And I love it.
“I am very hands on, with the hard work and support of the family behind me, and I’ve no plans to step down.”
Alain de Royer–Dupré, who has enjoyed a long and successful association with the Aga Khan, also sounds like a man who is very much still in love with the trainer’s life.
The Frenchman will, ground permitting, run exceptional stayer Vazirabad in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and while regally-bred three-year-old Zarkamiya – a daughter of Frankel and his Arc heroine Zarkava – may not be ready for the Royal meeting, she is sure to attract enormous interest when she next sets foot on a racecourse.