Rachel King, Hollie Doyle vie for IJC success

Hollie Doyle has been an inspiration for female jockeys.
Hollie Doyle has been an inspiration for female jockeys.

Had life worked out differently, Rachel King and Hollie Doyle might have been familiar contemporaries in the jockeys’ rooms around Britain.

Instead, the pair – who are among the dozen invitees to Wednesday’s LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) – have established their positions among the Group 1 elite but have done so on opposite sides of the planet.

Back in 2014, just as Doyle was beginning her extraordinary journey in the saddle, King made what proved to have been the inspired decision of moving to Australia.

Her career had failed to ignite and even included a few rides over jumps for English-based trainer Alan King, who ironically is responsible for the horse that has had the most profound effect in Doyle’s story, the top-class stayer Trueshan.

Rachel King has taken the journey less travelled.
Rachel King has taken the journey less travelled.

King has not looked back since finding her feet on the Sydney scene with the legendary Gai Waterhouse, taking the champion apprentice title and becoming one of the leading names on the city’s competitive circuit. This will be her first time in the LONGINES IJC.

“Last time I was here I went and watched some races at Happy Valley, I’d just ridden in an amateur ladies’ flat race in Macau,” King said with a laugh.” So, it’s been a bit of a journey to where I am now.

“I’m really looking forward to it, hopefully I’ll have a few decent rides in there as well. Zac (Purton) was giving me a few little pointers, there are plenty of good people to learn from. I’ll just try to get as much information as I can.”

Although King’s accent certainly carries an Aussie twang after nearly a decade Down Under, she recognises that it is still quite surreal to be competing under that flag.

“It’s funny because obviously (Australian-based) James McDonald is representing New Zealand, I’m representing Australia – but I’m English – so it’s a little bit mixed up but it’s nice to get the privilege to do that. There’s plenty of good jockeys in Australia so it’s nice to be able to come and represent.”

Doyle, six years King’s junior, has gone close in this competition already, her best being dead-heating for second in 2021.

King, meanwhile, was even more unlucky in a similar event in the World All-Star Jockeys Series in Japan in late August, losing out by a point to Mirai Iwata.

“This is a different group of jockeys, a different style of racetrack, but Japan was amazing, the first big competition I’d done,” she said.” I’ve only got to go one better and I can win. I led the whole way until the last race and then my horse broke down, so I’ll try and do better!”

There are certainly similarities between the pair, who each stand at little over 1.5m tall but are deceptively strong, disciplined and tactically astute.

The likes of Hayley Turner and Michelle Payne have paved the way to Doyle and King’s respective success in Britain and Australia and the conversation shifted to both being regarded simply as top-class jockeys a long time ago.

A victory for either as the first female rider in the history of the IJC would be a novelty for one year only; it will surely be followed by many more.

Author: iRace