In a distinctly quiet racing week (until the Curragh today), off-track activities have dominated, with the appointment of James Doyle as Prince Khalid Abdullah’s retained jockey grabbing the majority of headlines.
Doyle is enjoying his best-ever season, highlighted by efforts on Al Khazeem and a splendid Royal Ascot treble on the Wednesday of the June spectacular. However, having listened to the rationale for this appointment from Lord Grimthorpe, I remain sceptical. Three reasons were given for the Doyle elevation.
One – Prince Khalid has apparently been most impressed with Doyle’s riding and is now looking to the future with this appointment. Fair enough, I suppose, but Doyle has ridden 60 winners this season at a 14% strike rate – the likes of Franny Norton and Daniel Tudhope have ridden more.
Two – how could anyone choose to lose the services of Ryan Moore, William Buick and Tom Queally, all young jockeys with plenty more to offer.
Imagine the scenario next Derby Day. Sir Michael Stoute has a leading contender for the Oaks and/or the Derby for the Juddmonte operation. Be in no doubt about which rider (Ryan Moore) Sir Michael would want in the plate. Nevertheless, all good luck to James Doyle whom I am in no way demeaning. He is a jockey on the up as victory on Rizeema in Ireland today clearly showed and I am sure he’ll do a very solid job. I am just not convinced he will do a better job than Moore (especially), Buick or Queally. The latter is likely to feel most disappointed in view of his efforts on such as Frankel, Twice Over and Midday for Team Cecil down the years for Juddmonte.
Three – despite the assertion that the Prince likes a retained rider, it’s seven years since Richard Hughes was dismissed from the post. All rather strange methinks.
However, it was a nice ‘n easy start for Doyle as he steered Kingman to a smooth success in the Solario Stakes on Saturday to make it two from two for the Gosden colt, who displayed a nice turn of foot to put the race to bed. He has considerably more to prove to justify his current Guineas quote with the likes of Great White Eagle(impressive from a poor draw today) and War Command to name but two waiting in the Ballydoyle wings to tackle him but has so far done all asked of him.
The other hot potato of news this week was the desire of the BHA to race on Good Friday. As a regular visitor to the Middleham Open Day, I can confidently say that’s where I – and my money – will be venturing in the future, irrespective of the racing fare on offer. We already demand so much from the racing circus and I fail to see the benefit of demanding any more.
Perhaps the BHA and other interested parties could spend their time more profitably by working out why a Thursday in the middle of the Flat season this week comprised two all-weather cards, two jumps meetings and a turf meeting in Scotland.
In the long run, the piece of news with the most significant long-term implications was the announcement that Willie Mullins will be raiding UK shores with greater regularity and may even set up a satellite yard in the UK. What a fascinating consideration and now we all know precisely why Ruby Walsh chose to quit as Paul Nicholls stable jockey in order to spend more time with his family in Ireland!!