Meet The Group 1-Winning Jockey Who Is In Demand At The Breeze-Ups

A month on from recording a breakthrough Group 1 success, Joe Doyle, the rider who will forever be associated with multiple stakes-winner Make A Challenge (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), is back on familiar shores.

However, Doyle has no plans on resuming his riding career in Britain or Ireland, where the 27-year-old has enjoyed successful spells respectively.

No, Doyle is merely keeping his eye in before returning for New Zealand, where he has a 1,000 Guineas prospect to look forward to next season, by riding at the breeze-ups.

It’s not surprising to see Doyle in such demand ahead of the Tattersalls Guineas Breeze-Up Sale, either. Just over a week on from partnering Danny O’Donovan’s Eqtidaar (Ire) filly who sold to Peter and Ross Doyle for £120,000 at Goffs UK last week, Doyle has been snapped up by five different consignors for Wednesday’s breeze.

He said, “The breeze-ups are where I got my first taste of riding racehorses properly. I have been riding in breeze-ups since I was 12 years old and can even remember riding in them when they were back in Dundalk.

“It’s something I enjoy doing and, while I was home, I didn’t want to be tipping in and out of a yard for a month or two. By riding the breeze-up horses, it gives me a chance to keep my eye in and the fitness levels up without having to make any commitments to anyone.”

He added, “I rode a nice filly last week for Danny O’Donovan. She was a good model and came up good and fast. That’s what the buyers want. But this is a tough environment as well. When you are racing, if things don’t go right on the day, you always have another chance.

“The breeze-up handlers don’t have that luxury. They have one shot at this and, if it doesn’t go to plan, it can take a lot of value off their stock. There’s a different kind of pressure involved in race-riding and riding in the breeze but it’s something I enjoy doing and I’m looking forward to Wednesday to be honest.

“I ride for Danny O’Donovan again, as well Stevie Byrne, Eoin McDonagh, Paddy Vaughan and Conor King. I’ve sat on a few very nice horses in the pre-breeze and hopefully the clock will reflect that on Wednesday.”

To have a rider of Doyle’s calibre in action at the breeze-ups speaks to the professionalism of the sphere. Here is a jockey who rode multiple stakes winners aboard the Denis Hogan-trained Make A Challenge just a couple of seasons ago and would still have his supporters were he still riding in Ireland.

However, without a big-name runner to throw his leg over, Doyle elected to give New Zealand a go earlier this year, and the decision has been vindicated with 19 winners on the board including that all-important Group 1 victory aboard Pignan (NZ) (Staphanos {Jpn}) in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce S.

Doyle said, “It was great to get that Group 1 and it wasn’t something I was expecting to do. It was a great way to round off the trip as it came on my final day riding in New Zealand. “Sometimes the Group 1 races in New Zealand can get a bit of stick for being handicaps but this was a two-year-old set weight race for fillies and colts and I think the winner is a proper filly, too.”

He added, “I was absolutely elated to get that sort of a result and I think she could even be a Guineas filly for next year. I am heading back to New Zealand on July 1 and the 1,000 Guineas would look the right race for her down there. We’re very excited and hopefully she will train on. “There’s no reason why she wouldn’t. She will have a prep and then it will be all systems go for the Guineas, hopefully.”

There has been no shortage of Irish jockeys trying their hand at Australia, but not many have come to the conclusion that New Zealand was the place to be. But it was on the recommendation of Doyle’s friend that the offerings in New Zealand were worth exploring and he hasn’t looked back.

Doyle explained, “I bumped into Samantha Finnegan, whose sister is Chrissy Bambury, who does very well down there. She just happened to ask me what I was up to for the winter and I didn’t have any plans as such.

“It was Samantha who suggested I go to New Zealand and she got me a job. That’s how it all came about. Australia is a very big place and there is a big pool of horses and jockeys. I thought that I could do New Zealand first and get a feel for the place and perhaps move on but I don’t think there’s any sign of me moving on at the minute as I am happy down there. The people have been so good to me in New Zealand.”

He added, “I was in Ballydoyle every day at the time, which was fantastic, and I couldn’t thank Aidan [O’Brien] enough. You learn an awful amount riding out at Ballydoyle every morning when you’re working alongside the likes of Seamie Heffernan and Wayne Lordan, two top-class jockeys.

“Things are bound to rub off on you when you are working alongside that calibre of jockey, but the thing is, Ireland is an extremely difficult place to do well in as a jockey, and I just wanted to be busy. I didn’t mind taking a hit with the prize-money if it meant I was to be as busy as I am riding down in New Zealand and long may it continue.”

Of course, reinventing himself is something that comes second nature to Doyle. Some people may forget that Doyle had all but retired but for being lured back to race-riding by Hogan in 2019.

“I have reinvented myself a couple of times alright, yea–I didn’t race-ride for 18 months at one stage! I had no plans to come back race-riding and then Denis twisted my arm that time.

“We got on really well and had some great seasons together. We’re still the best of friends but things got a bit quiet for me at home in Ireland. I was trying to find the right horses and I just needed a fresh start.”

He added, “But I like going racing for eight or 10 rides and a few favourites as well. It’s good to be riding for the big trainers in New Zealand and sitting on the nicer types of horses.”

Be it New Zealand or breeze day at Newmarket, Joe Doyle is back in demand, that’s for sure.

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