james dOYLE will be motivated by redemption when he partners the well-regarded Barney Roy in today’s Qipco 2000 Guineas, the opening Classic of the Flat season.
This globe-trotting jockey still shakes his head in disbelief when reminded of the brilliant Kingman’s shock defeat in the corresponding race three years ago.
I was very concerned from halfway in the Greenham, but the race did open up. Saeed’s (bin Suroor) colt (Dream Castle) is very talented, but he is a bit keen and Oisin (Murphy) elected to stop fighting with him and let him out a bit.James Doyle
Although the 29-year-old would go on to steer John Gosden’s charge to four straight Group One victories – including the Irish Guineas – before the horse was retired later that year, it is his reversal on the Rowley Mile that Doyle still finds hard to comprehend.
“How Kingman got beat in the Guineas, I still can’t work that one out.
“It was messy when we started going to different sides of the track,” he said.
“It would mean everything to win a British Classic as they are the most important races of our season. I thought it would happen with Kingman a few years ago.
“I was lucky enough to win an Irish Classic, but to win a British one would be great.”
That dream of winning a first British Classic, and laying to rest the ghost of Kingman at Newmarket, could be achieved today with Doyle set to partner leading fancy Barney Roy against Aidan O’Brien’s highy-regarded Churchill, the top two-year-old colt from last season.
Having teamed up with the Richard Hannon-trained three-year-old to good effect in last month’s Greenham at Newbury, Doyle is optimistic the son of Excelebration has what it takes.
He said: “I think he will improve a hell of a lot, but it was a good performance from him in the Greenham.
“He is quite well balanced so I see no reason why he won’t come in and out of the dip quite well, but until you encounter it, it’s hard to know.
“What will help is that he will jump and travel a lot stronger. That mid-race sleepiness he had in the Greenham, I think he won’t have as he will travel a lot stronger and the turn of foot will come from travelling and not being outpaced.
“I was very concerned from halfway in the Greenham, but the race did open up. Saeed’s (bin Suroor) colt (Dream Castle) is very talented, but he is a bit keen and Oisin (Murphy) elected to stop fighting with him and let him out a bit.
“When I got out and had a look, he did have quite a bit of ground on me so I didn’t think I would pick him up but when I gave him a couple of taps he really quickened and I knew he’d get him.
“To be competitive in the Guineas he is going to have to have improved and have learnt a lot from the Greenham, but I think he will have done. Stepping back up to a mile will definitely bring about improvement.
“I see him as a top-class mile to a mile-and-a-quarter horse going forward. He is a big stamp of a horse and is quite long. He does use himself quite well.
“When I did give him a couple of taps, I could feel his stride pattern change. He really lengthened and got lower to the ground. He is really powerful.
“He does carry himself very well. He has certainly got the stride of a very good horse, similar to the good ones I’ve ridden before.”
It could turn out to be a weekend to remember for Doyle, who will once again don the silks of owner Khalid Abdullah to ride Fair Eva in the 1000 Guineas tomorrow.
Although Roger Charlton’s Frankel filly suffered defeats in her final two starts last term, Doyle expects the step up to a mile to be in her favour as she bids to make a triumphant return.
He said: “I would be so happy if I were to win a Classic for Khalid Abdullah. It would be amazing.
“I had very good times with Juddmonte and sat on some fantastic horses like Kingman and Noble Mission.
“It is nice to get the call-up to ride one of their potential stars again. I’m really excited about the ride on her.
“She worked really nicely recently and I feel stepping up from her last run at seven to a mile will bring out improvement.
“I don’t see her going further than a mile, but I think a mile will be perfect.”
Still a key member of Godolphin’s roster of jockeys, and just back from a long stint in Australia, it is a statistical oddity that a rider as gifted as Doyle does not have a British Classic to his name. He can put the record straight today.