Holly Doyle became the first female jockey to win a French Classic when she saddled her beloved Nashwa to win the French Oaks (Prix de Diane) at Chantilly on Sunday.
The 25-year-old English jockey finished third in Nashwa at Epsom Oaks earlier this month, but this time he didn’t make a mistake, driving a brilliant race and taking the win.
She has long been regarded in flat racing as the equivalent of Irish ski jumping jockey Rachel Blackmore, who made history by becoming the first female rider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup (2022) and the Grand National (2021).
Doyle was congratulated by fellow jockey and husband Tom Marquand, who finished seventh on the Zelly after passing the post, but the winning rider abandoned what she had achieved.
“I am just honored to be in this position,” she said.
“This is such a prestigious race and it’s a huge honor.
“I wouldn’t be riding this stylish filly if Imad al Sagar (the owner) hadn’t asked me to ride it in 2020.”
Doyle chuckled when it was suggested that she was a star like Nashwa.
“I don’t know about it!”
Nashwa coach John Gosden, who shares a license with his son Thaddy, had to lavish praise on her.
“That’s great,” Gosden said. “She is a very talented racer. She is very serious and principled, but she has a great sense of humor.
“She had a very good race in a confusing competition.
“Full credit to Nashwa owner-breeder Imad Al Sagar, who asked me two years ago who he should choose, and I and other people said Holly Doyle,” added the 71-year-old Englishman.
– “The Boss and the Romantic” –
Doyle was forced to do most of the running and seemed like easy pickings for Gerald Moss as he challenged La Parisienne on the final two furlongs (400 meters).
But Doyle and Nashwa did their best to deprive the 55-year-old Mosse of his sixth race win – his first in 1988 came eight years before she was born.
“We were so close, but the winner is a rock and has been ridden brilliantly by her jockey,” said Yann Lerner, who coaches La Parisienne with his father Carlos.
Doyle’s results surpassed those of Jessica Marsialis, who in October 2020 became the first female jockey to win the French Group 1 race, Marcel Boussac.
Her first classic victory came two years after Doyle recorded her first group one success at the Sprint of Champions at Glen Shiel and placed fourth in the Jockey Championship.
Based on her exploits, she was named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year that same year.
Childhood sweethearts Doyle and Marquand managed to separate their professional rivalry from their personal lives.
Marquand says she’s “the boss” and Doyle says he’s “romantic” with an ex saying in 2020, “We’ve been so lucky to have each other since I was 14.”
“I think he was as happy as I was,” Doyle said as he followed French Oaks.
“We are always very happy for each other, so I think he was delighted.”
Two years ago, Markand, who is a year younger than Doyle, said that despite their success on the track, they might go unnoticed by the general public.
“The taxi driver recognized her the other day!” Markan joked.
“But we spend like kids usually.”
It may become more difficult after the historic trip on Sunday.
pi / number