For only the third time since racing resumed at the start of June, both Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand had a day off on Sunday and the timing could not have been better after the couple rode the winners of four of the six races on British Champions Day at Ascot, including a Group One winner apiece.
“Today is the first day of no Flat racing in a very long time, so we’re just chilling out and taking advantage of that,” Doyle said on Sunday. “I would have been pleased just for all the horses to run well, so to ride two winners was brilliant.
“Trueshan [in the Long Distance Cup] was very impressive and to get off to a start like that fills you with plenty of confidence for the rest of the day. I didn’t think Glen Shiel [Doyle’s first Group One winner] had won [the Champions Sprint] so it was a big shock when he was called the winner.
“It was brilliant for Tom to win the Champion Stakes, especially on Addeybb, who has been such a flag bearer for Tom.”
Marquand, 22, and Doyle, 24, first met as teenagers on the West Country pony racing circuit and now sit third and fourth respectively in the flat jockeys’ title race with 102 and 85 winners. In 2020 as a whole, however, the placings are reversed, as Doyle has 118 wins – breaking her own record total for a female rider in a calendar year – while Marquand has 112.
Monday’s horse racing tips, by Greg Wood
Pontefract: 12.45 Out The Hat 1.15 Coul Cat 1.45 The Rosstafarian (nap) 2.20 Stag Horn 2.50 Awake My Soul 3.20 Starter For Ten 3.50 Round The Island 4.20 Jill Rose
Windsor: 1.00 Charles Le Brun 1.30 Good Listener 2.00 Rasheeq (nb) 2.30 Twpsyn 3.00 Mostawaa 3.30 Moxy Mares 4.00 Espresso Freddo 4.30 Lady Isabel
Plumpton: 2.10 Pisgah Pike 2.40 Hab Sab 3.10 Plenty Of Butty 3.40 Dr Sanderson 4.10 Vision Clear 4.40 Moans Cross 5.10 Our Rockstar
Wolverhampton: 4.25 Fulbeck Girl 5.00 Passing Nod 5.30 Sfumato 6.00 Machree 6.30 Seneca Chief 7.00 Charlie Fellowes 7.30 Atalanta Breeze 8.00 Red Gunner 8.30 Driving Force
“After racing, we got in the car and looked at each other and started laughing,” Marquand said. “It’s ridiculous really. You couldn’t have written the day any better. We are both so lucky to be in the position we’re in.
“Unintentionally, I guess, we’re pushing each other. We both have similar goals and things we want to achieve. We’ve got each other’s entire and full backing, which has to make a difference.”
For racing, the potential “crossover” value of Doyle and Marquand’s emergence at the forefront of the new generation of jockeys could be considerable. In addition to their talent and drive, both riders are also at ease in front of a microphone and seem more than ready to do what they can to promote the sport.
For years, racing has wondered how it will maintain a foothold in the public consciousness when Frankie Dettori, who is 50 in December, finally hangs up his boots. Saturday’s card at Ascot offered at least the hint of an answer.
Both riders, for instance, will go into next season sensing that a serious run at the championship might be an obvious next step in their careers. The media interest that a close contest for the title might generate is incalculable, and the likelihood is that they will be racing against each other at the top level for years to come.
While Doyle and Marquand put their stamp on Champions Day, the incumbent as the public face of racing endured a miserable afternoon. Dettori was beaten out of sight on Stradivarius in the opener, beat only two home aboard Mishriff in the Champion and threatened only briefly to take a hand in the QEII on Palace Pier, the odds-on favourite. The soft ground was an obvious excuse for Stradivarius and Palace Pier, though it did not stop Stradivarius winning the Ascot Gold Cup by 10 lengths in June. In his case, a tough race on similar ground at Longchamp two weeks ago had probably left its mark.
Palace Pier was not the first hot favourite to flounder on soft ground at Ascot in mid-October, nor will he be the last. On current evidence, the going will be good-to-soft or worse – sometimes much worse – on Champions Day in four years out of every five. The punters, of course, can factor that in – Stradivarius in particular was a big drifter on the day – and racegoers, as and when they return, can wrap up in their winter gear.
Whether Champions Day will maintain its appeal for owners, though, is another question. Its timing between Arc weekend and the Breeders’ Cup makes it very difficult to run a horse at all three and with only a 20% chance of decent ground at Ascot, the percentage play will always be to take in Paris and the US and give Champions Day a miss.
It is Britain’s richest day at the races and a reliable source of great performances and stories. But whether a mid-October card can ever reliably attract the kind of fields that confer genuine “champion” status on its winners remains doubtful, to say the least.