Juddmonte challenge on Crystal Ocean is ‘race of the week’ for James Doyle

James Doyle partners Crystal Ocean in the �1m Juddmonte International at York.
James Doyle partners Crystal Ocean in the �1m Juddmonte International at York.
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TO DESCRIBE James Doyle as racing’s ‘super-sub’ does a disservice to a charming rider who is now established – and very respected – as one of the best in the business.

It is because of horsemanship that he was chosen by Sir Michael Stoute to partner Crystal Ocean in last month’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot when narrowly denied by the Frankie Dettori-ridden Enable in a race for the ages.

James Doyle and Crystal Ocean (yellow cap) were narrowly denied by Frankie Dettori's Enable (pink cap) in the King George at Ascot.

James Doyle and Crystal Ocean (yellow cap) were narrowly denied by Frankie Dettori's Enable (pink cap) in the King George at Ascot.

And with both Dettori – and Stoute’s longstanding jockey Ryan Moore – also having to honour other commitments in today’s £1m Juddmonte International, the day one highlight of the Welcome to Yorkshire Festival, Doyle keeps the ride on the world’s highest-rated racehorse on merit.

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This, after all, is a jockey whose career was going nowhere before a Group One triumph aboard Roger Charlton’s Cityscape at the Dubai World Cup meeting in 2012. He’s not looked back.

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James Doyle collects his prize from the Queen after Blue Point won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

James Doyle collects his prize from the Queen after Blue Point won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Now integral to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, Doyle does, nevertheless, have the chance to ride for other trainers when available – notably an alliance with Yorkshire-born trainer William Haggas which culminated with the sadly ill-fated colic victim Sea Of Class winning last year’s Yorkshire Oaks.

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And he’s delighted to be aboard Evelyn de Rothschild’s Crystal Ocean who put up a dominant display under the aforementioned Dettori to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot before coming off second best to Enable.

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James Doyle won the 2018 Yorkshire Oaks on Sea Of Class who recently died from colic.

James Doyle won the 2018 Yorkshire Oaks on Sea Of Class who recently died from colic.

“I was really proud of my horse at Ascot and I thought for a second we might have won, because we put (Enable) under pressure –and then she powered away from me late on. It was a great race, and great to see two horses turn up in fantastic nick,” said Doyle.

There is no rematch at York tomorrow with Enable, trained by John Gosden, declared for Thursday’s Group One Yorkshire Oaks when she will take on Aidan O’Brien’s top class filly Magical.

But Doyle, 31, is confident a drop back in distance from a mile and a half to 10 furlongs will not inconvenience Crystal Ocean in this championship race. “I’m looking forward to the Juddmonte, because it is the race of the week,” said the rider whose big race successes this year include the Royal Ascot sprint double on the now retired Blue Point.

“I can’t thank the owners and Sir Michael enough for the faith they have shown in me. There are various reasons, with Ryan and Frankie being unavailable, but even still it gives you plenty of confidence.

“It is back at a mile and a quarter. But there is a nice, long straight at York – and he is tactically versatile, so there’s no issue in that regard, and he has run super on fast and soft ground.

“He has all the credentials a top Group One horse needs, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be running him if he wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

“He has no quirks – he is plain sailing to ride, which is a big plus. He is just a solid Group One horse.”

While confident about his own chances of victory, Doyle is respectful of the opposition – giving special mention to the Gosden-trained and Dettori-ridden King Of Comedy, who went down by a diminishing neck in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on his latest appearance.

“I thought King Of Comedy was very eye-catching,” he said. “Stepping up in trip looks like it will suit, and he is by that powerful stallion Kingman – he is a very worthy contender.

“Crystal Ocean does everything you ask of a horse. He can put himself into a spot and relax, and you can ride him more patiently if you require – he has got a good turn of foot. It is the race of the meeting for me. All eyes will be on Enable – but of all the races during the week, the Juddmonte is the one you want to win.”

Stoute, who has a record six Juddmonte wins to his name, says Crystal Ocean has recovered from his Ascot exertions just over three weeks ago.

“Obviously we’re happy with him or we wouldn’t have sent him,” he added.

Aidan O’Brien’s two runners are headed by Japan, the choice of Ryan Moore who has previously ridden Crystal Race to high-profile successes, while Oisin Murphy – victorious 12 months ago on Roaring Lion – partners the Japanese raider Cheval Grand.

Meanwhile, David O’Meara’s Lord Glitters and Mark Johnston’s Elarqam will bid to become the first Yorkshire-trained winners of the Juddmonte since its inception in 1972.