Doyle flying high after beating odds with debut win
Not even legends of the racing game like Tony McCoy or Ruby Walsh have the distinction of bagging a winner on their first racecourse ride, but Emma Doyle achieved that feat to etch her place in history last Friday night at Dundalk.
Guiding "family pet" Northern Surprise (20/1) - trained by her father Tim and owned by her mother Claire - from last to first was all the more remarkable as Doyle had only officially qualified as a jockey from RACE (Racing Academy and Centre of Education) the previous day.
Her name actually didn't appear as an option to ride Northern Surprise when her Dad was confirming riding arrangements last Thursday and it took an 11th-hour phone call - at 11.30 that morning - to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) to seal the deal.
The uplifting story of the Tipperary native's victory and subsequent post-race interview - which saw her smiling from ear to ear and quickly went viral - could have been much different, however, as the 19-year-old lay on the turf of their Moyne yard on Thursday morning after "an almighty fall" when schooling.
Doyle was "turned upside down" - she insists she won't be taking out her jumps licence any time soon - but she was back on her feet in a matter of seconds and nothing was going to stop her debut the following day.
Few people had much confidence in Northern Surprise - although her aunts, uncles and granny had a few quid on "just to say that they did" and treated her to dinner with the winnings - but he had been earmarked as "a safe one" for the 10lb apprentice to ride if she earned her stripes.
The eight-year-old enjoyed the freedom given to him by his rookie rider to fly down the home straight, ironically catching more-fancied stablemate Spanish Soprano (14/1) and Ross Coakley to score by a neck.
The result really captured the public's imagination with her fledging career as a jockey "only a weekend job" as she is in second year in Maynooth University studying Business and Marketing.
A week after riding her maiden winner, Doyle will be knuckling down to her college exams, although she admits she got a bit sidetracked with her study due to all the celebrations and fanfare around her victory.
Riding winners in Dundalk on a Friday night isn't typical of your average teenager and Doyle laughs at the reaction of her friends who "think it's gas to see me all over the internet when all I can think is that I won a 45-65 handicap around Dundalk".
Turning professional isn't something she has given much thought to yet and she was floored by the response to her win with "a lot more hard-working people that should be getting that type of credit" before her.
"I knew it wouldn't be very realistic to become a full-time jockey with nothing else in mind so I always wanted to have something to fall back on. When I finish college I'd like to use my degree to work in the racing industry, whether that's as a jockey I don't know yet," Doyle says.
"I've Mondays off from college so I ride out back home then and also on Saturdays and whenever I'm here I'm riding out so they get enough work out of me. It's a dream to be a full-time jockey but I won't be dropping out of college... but I look forward to getting another few rides at Dundalk on Friday nights."
Rachael Blackmore, a fellow county woman, "is changing the game" with her drive for the Irish jumps jockeys' championship and Doyle was delighted to have the Killenaule rider showing her the ropes on her debut.
As for her beaming father Tim, it was "one of the best days we've ever had as a family. It would do you good as a parent to see that and any parent would be happy to see their child as happy as that."
That's what racing, and indeed sport, is all about.