The Sunday Times’ Sportswoman of the Year, jockey Hollie Doyle has won the British Champions Sprint Stakes and the Goodwood Cup and last year became the first female jockey to ride a winner on Champions Day at Ascot. Hollie lives in Hungerford and we were delighted that she agreed to take time out of her busy life to do an interview with us.
What were your dreams growing up? Was there ever a time that you didn’t want to be a jockey?
No – that was the only thing. Nothing else came into the equation. Luckily it’s going OK otherwise I’d be a bit stuck as I didn’t have much interest in school!
Did anyone ever tell you that being a jockey would be different/harder for a woman?
Yes, my dad always drilled it into me growing up that I’d have to work hard as I’m a girl. It’s something I listened to but never thought much of. It’s certainly hard to be a jockey ,no matter what gender you are.
How significant is it to ride winners in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Europe? And to ride for the biggest trainers in GB and Ireland?
It was very significant for me as I needed to prove that I can compete at the top level against the best in the world. And I have…
How much of a kick do you get from beating Tom in a close finish?
It feels good but doesn’t happen too often, unfortunately!
You often see the horses you ride for the first time at the racecourse with no ‘getting to know you’ time. What’s that like given that every horse has a different character and presents different challenges?
I suppose for a jockey a feel for a horse is something you pick up in time. Increasingly you can gauge a horse’s personality or ability – or mood – within seconds of sitting on it. Like people, some horses are easier to evaluate than others.
Do you get emotionally attached to some horses but not others?
I think I am a bit guilty of having favourites and getting attached to certain horses. I suspect I’m not the only one…
You have a reputation as an excellent judge of the pace of each race. Is that instinctive or does it come with experience?
I think much of this is instinctive but it has certainly improved with experience over the years.
Do you always follow the trainer’s orders or are there times when you have to switch to plan B? For example, when you can’t predict what the other runners are going to do so often have to use your initiative accordingly?
I always try and ride to orders but if things aren’t going to plan you have to use your own initiative. As a jockey that’s what you are getting paid for.
If you were in charge of racing what would you like to change?
Better prize money to support everyone in the racing industry.
Do you think female riders will take over on the flat? Especially as human weight is increasing and the fact it’s already happened in Scandinavia?
I don’t think females will take over on the flat at all but there are definitely more coming through the ranks.
Why do you think that equestrian sports are the only ones where men and women compete against each other?
Because it’s not all about physicality – you have to be fit and strong but you need a brain to go with it.
How do you switch off and wind down from racing?
I struggle to switch off as I don’t have any other interests but I do like going out for a bite to eat with friends or just chilling out.
Is there anything that you would like our readers to know about? For example your support for charities?
I support cancer research and the IJF.
What do you like about living in Hungerford?
Travelling is obviously a big part of my job so I’d have to say the fact that it has good access to the motorway and is fairly central.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what would your book, song and luxury item be?
Book: The Art of Saying No by Mark Manson.
Song: Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine.
Luxury: sun cream – otherwise I’ll get incinerated…