Hollie Doyle hopes to draw inspiration from Rachael Blackmore and Bryony Frost by writing her name in the record books and securing the “biggest success” of her career aboard Sherbet Lemon in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom Downs on Friday (4th June).
With both Blackmore and Frost breaking new ground during the last Jump season, the 24 year old hopes she can create her own slice of history by becoming the first female jockey to win the fillies’ Classic on her debut ride in the race on the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid.
Last year was something of a breakthrough for Doyle, who celebrated both a first Royal Ascot success and Group One victory aboard Glen Shiel back at the Berkshire track in October, along with becoming the first female rider in Britain to win five races at a single meeting at Windsor, before finishing third in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.
In what has been a whirlwind 18 months, Doyle now aims to use the achievements of Blackmore, who this year became the first female rider to win the Grand National and Champion Hurdle as well take the leading jockey honours at the Cheltenham Festival with six victories, and Frost, who was the first of her sex to win the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, as inspiration ahead of her own date with destiny.
Doyle said: “It’s great to get the ride. That was the aim at the start of the year to continue to ride plenty of winners but at the same time to try and get some good rides in good races. To get a ride in the Oaks is great.
“It would be the biggest winner of my career I suppose to win a Classic. It would be amazing and definitely the next step up.
“I suppose I look up to the likes of Ryan Moore and people like that but when other females in racing achieve things like Rachael and Bryony, it makes you believe that these sorts of things are possible. Hopefully what I do can help inspire others by setting a good example.”
Sherbet Lemon thrust into Classic contention after bouncing back to winning ways with victory in the Listed Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield Park last time out, and although Doyle was not on board on that occasion she was impressed with what she saw.
She said: “I won first time out on her at Newcastle and though I’ve not sat on her on the racetrack since, I do most of the work at home on her so I know her really well.
“I couldn’t ride her when she won the trial that day at Lingfield but I was delighted for the whole team that she got the job done that day. I’ve galloped her since and she has really improved.
“It was a really good performance and she pulled it out of the bag. She was a bit green late on so there is plenty more to come.
“Obviously we are all there to try and win the race but I hope she can finish in the top five or six. At the end of the day it would just be great to see her run well.”
Although Doyle has no concerns regarding Sherbet Lemon’s ability to act around the course or see out the mile and a half trip, she believes there could be question marks regarding both ground and tactics.
She said: “We always knew she wanted a trip as she is by Lemon Drop Kid and is out of Famous, who was pretty decent herself, so we knew she was going to have the quality.
“They had things their own way up front at Lingfield which was a big help to her being able to do everything in her own rhythm coming down that hill.
“Whether she will be able to dictate like she did around Lingfield that day around Epsom I’m not so sure but we will see.
“She has been around Lingfield and she handled that okay, despite being a bit green, I don’t see Epsom being a massive problem.
“I do feel she wants a bit of cut in the ground so if it dries out a lot it would probably be a bit inconvenient but then we have never been on quick ground.”
Helping Doyle hit the heights she has enjoyed in recent months has been the backing she has received from Sherbet Lemon’s trainer Archie Watson, who she has plenty admiration for.
Doyle said: “If she was trained by someone else and won her trial she would have probably nearly been favourite and not a 25-1 chance but Archie is a trainer on the up and it is great for a ride like this to have come from him.
“He does really well with what he gets and we have got some nice horses as well that will see towards the middle to the back end of the year come out.
“We are getting sent some quality horses which is good. Everyone at the yard is excited as everyone loves that filly which is great.”
Assessing potential dangers Doyle points to the Aidan O’Brien-trained favourite, and QIPCO 1000 Guineas fourth, Santa Barbara, as the main threat, however she feels it could be a horse that finished in behind Sherbet Lemon at Lingfield that may prove tough to beat.
She said: “There are a few that you would have doubts about stamina but Sherbet Lemon does everything right to ensure she gets it. She settles and she travels. I can’t knock her.
“I think Santa Barbara is the one to beat as she looks pretty impressive and it was a solid enough run from her in the 1000 Guineas.
“Out of that trial at Lingfield the one that came out of it that caught the eye was probably Oisin’s mount Ocean Road.
“She missed the break but then she ended up making a lot of ground and wasn’t far away in the end. She could be one that might surprise a few so keep an eye on her.”
While victory in the Oaks would give Doyle an immense amount of personal satisfaction it would be one she would look to use as another stepping stone to further her already successful career.
She said: “I do appreciate what I have done and winning the Oaks would be amazing but I never look back.
“I’m always feeling a bit worried that something is going to happen or that I’m going to drop off the face of the earth so I’m always just living to try and always go forward.
“I’m never happy or comfortable in my position as I’m always worried that I’m going to have a quiet time or something. That’s why I don’t ever want to take my foot off the pedal.”