Hollie Doyle landed her first Group 1 success when snatching the verdict on Glen Shiel in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
What a ride! Hollie Doyle wins her first Group 1!— Ascot Racecourse (@Ascot) October 17, 2020
She’s on fire as Glen Shiel holds on in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint! ?? pic.twitter.com/zNYOAUHJwb
Just 35 minutes after Doyle had become the first female rider to win on British Champions Day in the opening Long Distance Cup on Trueshan, the 24-year-old broke yet more new ground in a record-breaking year.
Doyle and connections of the Archie Watson-trained six-year-old mare by Pivotal had to wait a few anxious moments for the result of the photo-finish before it was confirmed Glen Shiel (16/1) had beaten the veteran Brando by a nose.
Glen Shiel was always in the front rank after being smartly out of the stalls and was joined three furlongs out by Oxted. The July Cup winner took the lead, but had nothing more to give in the final half-furlong.
Glen Shiel kept on giving back in front – and just held the very late challenge of 80/1 outsider Brando. One Master was half a length away in third place.
Doyle said: “I’m in a state of shock right now. I didn’t think I’d won, so to have had the result we have was incredible. We had a good old battle with Oxted from the three-pole and I thought that I would be doing well to hold on like I did, but he is such a game horse.
“He is incredible. He has got quicker with age. When we first got him, he was running over 10 furlongs in France and didn’t show a whole lot of speed, but the further we dropped him back, the quicker he has got.”
"A dream come true."@HollieDoyle1 on a sensational season capped by a remarkable British Champions Day ??— Racing TV (@RacingTV) October 17, 2020
She added: “It’s not about me, it’s about Archie Watson, he has campaigned this horse unbelievably. No one else would have won a Group 1 with this horse.
“It is a dream come true, a massive dream come true, especially on this horse. Everyone in the yard adores him. My aim at the start of the year was to ride a group winner and I always said a Group 1 one day, but I didn’t think it would come this year.
“I don’t get too carried away, but I’m a bit delusional as to what is going on at the moment as it has all been a bit of a whirlwind. It has been a great few years.
“It feels really unusual as for someone like me it doesn’t normally happen, but it has done today.”
In the four years that he has held a licence, Watson has made giant strides, enjoying plenty of success both at home and abroad, and since teaming up with Doyle, who turned 24 last weekend, he has now formed what is fast becoming a formidable partnership.
Seeing the pair notch doubles together at tracks like Wolverhampton and Lingfield has become a common sight, and the duo finally enjoyed glory on the biggest of stages thanks to the victory of the Hambleton Racing-owned gelding in the Qipco British Champions Sprint.
Watson said: “That is my first Group 1 winner and it is absolutely amazing. He is some horse and there aren’t many Group 1 horses that are picked up for £45,000 at a horses in training sale [she was originally trained by André Fabre]. He has just improved throughout the year.
“I was delighted to see Hollie get her first Group 1 winner as she is such a hard-working rider. I’m so pleased that I was able to give her that breakthrough Group 1 as we have had so many winners together. Her being on this winner means a lot to me and the yard.
“I’ve been knocking on the door at Group 1 level with the likes of Soldier’s Call, Snowy Winter and Absolute Blast, who were all Group 1-placed. For him to get his head in front is massive for the yard, as we’ve only been going just over four years.”
Making the decision to purchase Glen Shiel at the Goffs UK Spring Horses In Training/P2P Sale was a shrewd decision by Watson, but equally as important to helping the six-year-old realise his potential was reverting him back to sprinting this campaign.
Watson said: “We always intended to drop him down in trip, as when we first got him we raced him over a mile and a quarter. Since he has dropped to six furlongs he has just improved.
“He has been so consistent and he hasn’t been out of the first two over six furlongs. He has gone from winning off big weights in handicaps into conditions races and now into stakes races.
“He has only run in four group races and he has improved in all of them, having learnt how to race over the trip.”
Though now able to celebrate the victory Watson, who watched the race away from the track, admits he was on edge awaiting the outcome of the result.
He said: “Waiting on the photo-finish was not good for me, but I thought he just held on. As it was literally a bob of the heads, you can never be confident in a situation like that.
“While I’m delighted to give Hollie her first Group 1, I’m also delighted for his owners Hambleton Racing as they have been big supporters of mine.
“A lot of credit needs to go to Tom Biggs, who spotted him at the sale with me – he buys all these horses and puts me in the privileged position to train them.”
TAKING A BREAK
Having kept Glen Shiel busy since the start of the year, Watson intends to give his new stable star a well-deserved break before taking aim at all the major sprint races over six furlongs next year.
He said: “Everything has gone fantastic today and he will have another holiday now. I think straight tracks really play to his strengths, so he won’t be going to the Breeders’ Cup or Hong Kong. We will look at all those six-furlong races in Europe for him.
“I hope there are still more big wins in him, there will not be too much difference in him from being a six-year-old to a seven-year-old. He has been in such good form and it has been great to strike while the iron has been hot.
“Hopefully there is still more to come and he can be very competitive in these sorts of races next season.”