Talking Horses: Hollie Doyle breaks British female jockeys' record

Chris Cook

Hollie Doyle set a new record for wins in a year by a female jockey when she drove Class Clown to victory at Southwell on Thursday evening, her 107th success of 2019. It was a finish that allowed the 23-year-old to show off her skills as she repeatedly switched whip hands and eventually persuaded her mount to edge past a rival who was hanging into her.

Though she is not one of the most demonstrative riders in the weighing room, Doyle was clearly moved by the achievement, possibly because she has had some near misses in the five days since drawing level with the record, set by Josephine Gordon two years ago. “I feel a bit emotional, actually,” Doyle said on dismounting. She described herself as “really grateful” and “very lucky”.

Related: Talking Horses: why are safer hurdles not being more widely used?

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“Two out, I thought we’d get there nice and easy, but he had to work hard for it,” she said of Class Clown. “Half a furlong out, I didn’t think we’d get by, but the penny dropped eventually.”

Doyle’s year has been notable for the number and variety of trainers who have opted to use her on horses with a winning chance, so it was fitting that Class Clown should be her first success for the trainer concerned, David Barron. “I’m delighted for her,” Barron said. “She gave him a very good ride, as he wouldn’t be the most straightforward of horses, but she got him going. She is very strong in a finish.”

There was also praise from the Lambourn trainer Archie Watson, whose patronage has catapulted Doyle to prominence this year, the pair of them teaming up for 42 wins. “The main thing with Hollie is she gives them a ride every time,” he said. “I know all jockeys make mistakes, but I think she makes less than most, she’s very consistent. She deserves every success, she works very hard and is a very talented jockey.”

Approached for a reaction by Sky Sports Racing, Gordon was in cheerful mood. “I would have liked to have held the record longer, but I’m not going to be too fussy,” she said. “She’s a grafter and she deserves it. We’re going to see more records broken in the next couple of years by the girls and maybe it won’t be such a big deal, in time.”

Hayley Turner, whose 20-year career has been a game-changer for female jockeys in Flat racing, offered her congratulations through Twitter. “Well done Hollie Doyle who today raised the bar for the lady jockeys,” tweeted the 36-year-old, who achieved 100 winners in her best year.

Varma on course for Grand National

The job of looking after the Grand National course falls vacant about four times a century, on recent trends, so Sulekha Varma is counting herself very lucky to get it at the age of just 34. “I’m over the moon,” she said on Thursday as the news began to sink in. “I’m fully aware of what a big challenge the job will be but I know how things operate there.”

That’s because running Aintree during the National meeting is not a one-man job. For those three days, the Jockey Club brings its clerks of the course from around the country to Liverpool to help out, so if you walk the track you’re as likely to bump into Simon Claisse or Kirkland Tellwright as Andrew Tulloch, who has been Aintree’s clerk for the last 24 years. It’s odd to see those familiar figures of authority in the one place, working together, a bit like Avengers Assemble for racing geeks.

Varma has been with the Jockey Club over the last 10 years, doing her training at Haydock and then clerking at Nottingham, Market Rasen, Warwick, Huntingdon and Hamilton. And each April, she would travel to Aintree for experience that will now stand her in excellent stead.

“I’ve been there when there was a lot going on, changes, new ways of working, new protocols and procedures. My first year was Ballabriggs’s year, which brought about the changes in the pull-up area and the wash-down area. It was my job was to oversee that area and its function, once it had been redeveloped. I then moved on to assisting Andrew directly, so I was in the stewards’ box with him, running a lot of comms and being there if he got pulled away to do something else. The race after the National, I often clerked that so that he could deal with press conferences.

“I’ve thankfully had a lot of experience. I think there will still be a huge amount to learn but the structure and the set-up, I have a good understanding of.”

Bright and funny, Varma is one of the most approachable of Britain’s clerks and her ability to communicate and co-ordinate should be very valuable in the new role. Born in Cardiff and raised near Dundee, she can be claimed as one of their own by large parts of the country. She studied Classics at Durham University, which must be handy in inquiries when one of the more longstanding stewards starts declaiming in Latin.


Sedgefield 
12.05 Wor Verge 12.35 Dakota Beat 1.05 Raashdy 1.40 Agamemmon 2.15 Minella Trump 2.45 Ratfacemcdougall 3.20 Western Run

Exeter 
12.25 Bluebell Sally 12.55 Sporting John 1.30 Kateson 2.05 Those Tiger Feet 2.35 Espoir De Guye (nap) 3.05 Holdbacktheriver 3.40 Courtland

Sandown 
12.45 Goshen 1.20 Cesar Collonges 1.55 Paint The Dream 2.25 Overthetop 2.55 Loose Chips 3.30 Sunrise Ruby

Newcastle
3.15 Sunhill Lad 3.50 Secret Diary 4.25 Wallgate 5.00 Brushwork 5.30 Insurplus 6.00 Dawry 6.30 Summer Daydream 7.00 Eleuthera (nb)










Equine welfare will be at the heart of her work at Aintree and Varma has long had a love of horses, having ridden since she was a child. Her first memory of the National was watching Miinnehoma win it when she was nine. Tulloch started in the role the following year.

It was a work placement at Lucinda Russell’s yard that switched her on to racing. “We were packed off there for a week. One trip up the gallops and that was it, I was absolutely hooked.” She remembers riding Kerry Lads, who was twice placed in the Scottish Grand National.

Between Durham and the Jockey Club, Varma was briefly a journalist at the Racing Post. The fact that she did not continue as a racing scribe reflects well on her intelligence, it could be argued. Good luck to her. The whole sport would be delighted if she got a smooth run for years to come.

Chris Cook's tips


Market Rasen 

12.00 Defining Battle 12.30 Winningseverything 1.05 Swilly Sunset 1.40 Global Ruler 2.15 Cavalry Scout 2.50 Timely Gift 3.25 Jayaaah

Leicester 

12.10 Skeaping 12.45 Hold That Taught 1.20 Arqalina 1.55 Chirico Vallis 2.30 Eleanor Bob 3.05 Wenceslaus 3.40 Shadow's Girl 

Wincanton 

12.20 Favori De Sivola 12.55 Cill Anna 1.30 Above Board (nb) 2.05 Flashing Glance 2.40 Lizzie Langton (nap) 3.15 Duc Kauto 3.50 Le Bateau 

Kempton 

4.00 Ivatheengine 4.35 Katzoff 5.10 Lottie Marie 5.40 Faramman 6.15 Indigo Lake 6.45 Delta's Royalty 7.15 Baadirr 7.45 Al Asef 

Southwell 

4.15 Classy Lady 4.50 Motahassen 5.25 Redesdale Rebel 6.00 Contingency Fee 6.30 Esprit De Corps 7.00 Eesha Says 7.30 Tynecastle Park 8.00 Espoir Et Bonheur  


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