Angus McNae - Saturday 31st August 2013
Doyle intelligence sealed the deal but could trigger musical chairs
Why James Doyle?
The simple answer is that Khalid Abdullah recognizes an up and coming talent when he spies one. Perhaps Prince Khalid subscribes to the John Whitley jockey ratings because if he does then James Doyle would have been high on wish list. This still does not tell us why he wanted Doyle, or indeed why he wanted a retained jockey at all.
Prince Khalid has been well-served over the past few seasons by Tom Queally and Ryan Moore, who have had the lion’s share of rides in his silks and after Queally's exploits on Frankel it could be argued that he had the solid case for the retained rider job.
That said Doyle is no stranger to success for Prince Khalid and his high-profile win on Cityscape in the Dubai Sheema Classic of 2012 will have given Prince Khalid untold pleasure. He will also have received positive feedback from his trainers, who have employed Doyle. Roger Charlton, for one, is a massive fan.
In the saddle Doyle has demonstrated that he is a good judge of pace, which is fundamental to becoming a high achiever in the saddle. He is also strong in a finish and stylish to boot. These are, of course, assets that will have attracted Prince Khalid to Doyle, but it is my contention that it is his intelligence and reliability that will have appealed more to the Juddmonte operation than anything else.
I was lucky enough to interview Doyle after his Eclipse win on Al Kazeem. He talked with lucidity and intelligence, and these attributes should not be underestimated. For years Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum employed Richard Hills because he was honest and reliable. I was a big fan of Hills but with the best will in the world he could not be described as world class; he was intelligent and was part of the team and that was more important to his employer than raw precocious ability in the saddle. Prince Khalid will also be acutely aware of the need for similar attributes and in James he has a man who will bring more than just world class riding ability to the saddle.
I wonder whether we may be in for more musical jockeys as the season wears on. Is Sheikh Hamdan happy with a lack of Group One winners, if not could Paul Hanagan be the fall guy? What does the future hold for Ryan Moore? Maybe Ballydoyle will come calling soon and as for Mickael Barzalona, does he have a future at Godolphin given that he seemed to be Al Zarooni's man?
What is certain is that a retained jockey needs a sense of loyalty and ability in equal measure if he is to succeed and James Doyle has the intelligence to realize this.
Some are saying that Doyle's first real test will come on Kingman on Saturday in the Solario Stakes, but surely this is nonsense. I know Kingman is favourite for the 2000 Guineas, but he will win if he only runs as he did when winning his maiden. All James Doyle has to do is to ride as he always does. Yes nerves could get to him, but they did not seem to affect him on Al Kazeem at Royal Ascot or in the Eclipse.
The Solario will be a breeze for Doyle and for Kingman. A mere confidence-booster of both. It has been said that you only feel nervous when you don't know what you’re doing. Enough said.
My selection this weekend is Alta Lilea in the 3.30 at Chester. This horse has run well in better company. She was not beaten far by Maputo and Wild Coco at Hamilton and Goodwood respectively and is taking on her elders in a handicap for the first time.
She has also got decent course form and can be backed at 10/1 with Wiliam Hill at the time of writing.
Angus McNae's Saturday selection:
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