Al Kazeem crowns Doyle's perfect day
If you ever needed proof that success breeds success, just ask James Doyle.
Having never ridden a winner at Royal Ascot until yesterday, the jockey not only rattled off a quick-fire 891/1 treble, but also leapfrogged to the top of the jockeys' table for this year's meeting.
He started on Al Kazeem in the day's big race, the Prince of Wales's Stakes, and completed the day of his life by winning the next, the Royal Hunt Cup on 33/1 outsider Belgian Bill and the next, the Queen Mary, on 6/1 shot Rizeena.
In 2010, Doyle enrolled on a plumbers' course because he thought he was not going to make it as a jockey, although he never started it.
But for Roger Charlton's former first jockey Steve Drowne missing all of last season through illness, Doyle (25) may never have got this opportunity. He has grabbed his chance with both hands and repaid the trainer's faith with interest when riding Al Kazeem into the Arc picture by beating gallant front-runner Mukhadram a neck in a terrific finish.
For a long way victory was anything but a formality as Paul Hanagan appeared to have slipped the field on Mukhadram, opening up a four-length lead. But, with the utmost confidence in his mount, on which he is now unbeaten, Doyle eventually got there with a few strides to spare. Last year's Derby winner Camelot disappointed in fourth for Aidan and Joseph O'Brien.
"He ran well, he probably got a little bit tired and met a very fit horse on the day," said O'Brien of his charge. "That's the first time he's been asked to really race since he had his big colic operation. We've just been bringing him along gently."
"Paul Hanagan rode a fantastic race, filled up his mount's lungs coming up the hill and kicked early off the bend," said Doyle. "I had a bit of work to do, but you have to believe in your horse."
Only injury had prevented Al Kazeem getting to these exulted heights sooner, but he is repaying owner John Deere and Charlton for their patience.
"The name of the game is patience, but patience can be expensive," Charlton said, referring to a pelvis injury that kept Al Kazeem out for a year.
"He may go for the King George, but the Arc is the race we'd like to win. For a while today I didn't think we'd get there, but James was pretty confident. For a young guy who hasn't ridden that many good horses, I'm very pleased for him. We have asked him big questions and he's delivered."
In the Hunt Cup, the majority came up the stands side, but the handful that remained up the far side were always in front and it was Belgian Bill which finished best of all to give trainer George Baker the biggest winner of his career.
Clive Brittain (79), may be at the opposite end of the age spectrum from Doyle, but he has a very swift filly in Rizeena. She beat what was considered a pretty hot field for the Queen Mary, winning by two lengths from Sweet Emma Rose.
The impressive Doyle, meanwhile, had little time to savour his success. He was riding at Kempton last night without success. (© Daily Telegraph, London)