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The toughest woman in sport

She's lost teeth and blacked out, but nothing will stop jockey Hollie Doyle getting back in the saddle. Muddy talks to racing's pocket rocket in the run up Ladies Night at Windsor Racecourse.

Female flat racing jockey Hollie Doyle in riding hat and purple silk
Don’t be fooled by the package, jockey Hollie Doyle is petite and blonde, but hard as nails. Last year, her teeth were knocked out when she fell from her horse, she’s suffered concussion and a seizure, and yet she was back racing 10 days later. She works a seven day week, takes one week’s holiday a year, with a smile on her face and without complaint. I’m wincing just thinking about it, but Hollie is one determined lady. At just 22,  she’s one of the best and most exciting females jockeys riding right now, with impressive winner stats for Lambourn-based trainer Archie Watson and Marlborough-based trainer Richard Hannon. In the run up to Ladies Night at Windsor Racecourse and Royal Ascot, Hollie chats to Muddy about life in and out of the saddle.

How long have you been a jockey?

Six years. The youngest you can ride is 16,  I’m 22 now. As soon as I was old enough to ride, I started my career. I grew up surrounded by racehorses in Hereford, Dad was a jockey and had point-to-point horses. Mum raced on the flat. So, as soon as I could I started pony racing and it went from there.

Did your parents want you to become a  jockey?

To be honest, they just let me get on with it.

If you weren’t a jockey, what was Plan B?

There was no Plan B. I always wanted to be  a jockey and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.

Female flat racing jockey Hollie Doyle on chestnut horse at Royal Windsor Racecourse in blue and turqoise siilks

Hollie racing at Royal Windsor Racecourse

What’s an average day for you?

Busy. I get up at 5am every day to be in the yard for 6am. I live 45 minutes away. I ride out every day, then drive to the racecourse and sometimes the last race can be as late as 9pm. I’m self-employed and pretty much work seven days a week. I usually take a week off in November and go away.

When we spoke Hollie was bombing up the motorway to Haydock – a mere three-hour drive. 

What’s the hardest thing about the job?

Definitely the driving. It’s part of the job but you spend hours and hours in the car. The late nights are tough too.

It looks pretty dangerous, have you been seriously injured?

Last year was the worst. I fell during a race and was kicked under my jaw, knocking out most of my teeth. When I came round, I accidentally swallowed them. I underwent £8,000 worth of private dentistry at jockey Sam Waley Cohen’s Portman Dental Care, where they X-rayed my jaw, removed three or four roots and fitted with me with dentures, before putting in the caps. A year later and I am still having work done.

I’ve also broken a few bones and suffered a number of head injuries. I had a bad fall, got knocked and ended up having a seizure. You get stood down for two weeks and have to pass a concussion test before you’re cleared to ride again. It’s all part of the job. You just get on with  it.

Horse racing seems to a sport where women are treated as equals, is that your experience?

These days it’s pretty equal. I’ve never really felt like I was less privileged or disadvantaged being a female jockey. There’s always banter in the weighing room, but it’s really no big deal.

There seem to be more female jockeys coming through now, why do you think it has taken so long?

When I first started the two biggest names were Cathy Gannon and Hayley Taylor. But in the last five years, there are 10 or more female jockeys that are doing really well. We have a strong work ethic and are now getting a lot more recognition. There just isn’t that divide in ability any more. You can watch a race and there would be nothing to tell you whether it was a man or a woman riding the horse, and that’s a good thing at the end of the day.

What’s the dream?

To keep riding winners and being offered great horses, like Billisden Bess and Gorgeous Noora.

Female jockeys team Hollie Doyle England lifting the Shergar Cup at Ascot

Image: @yushi_machida

Best moment

Riding the winner in the Shergar Cup at Ascot last year.

Worst moment

The injuries have been a low point.

We’re G&T kinda gals at Muddy HQ, what’s your tipple?

I don’t drink. When I get ay time off all want to do is grab a takeaway and have a nice cuppa.

Sensible. We wouldn’t want you to drink and ride.

Do you choose a salad over the burger and chips?

I’m so lucky. I don’t have to worry about it at all. I’m only 5ft so I can pretty much eat whatever I want. I’ve never had to sweat, or think about calorie intake, like many jockeys. Give me a steak and I’m happy.

And relaaaax… what do you do?

I usually go to the gym and then chill out at home. God, it sounds so boring. But I’m too tired to do anything else.

What you’re fave hangout?

I like eating out, usually at my local pub, and I enjoy shopping too.

Riding boot off, stilettos on? 

There aren’t many opportunities to get dressed up, so you won’t often see me in heels.

Red hair florence and the machine

What will get you shimmying on the dance floor…

It’s got to be a bit of Florence & the Machine or Eminem.

Any top tips for Windsor’s Ladies Night? Wink wink.

It’s too early to tell, but I hope to see you there.

Keep your eyes peeled for Hollie at the ultimate girls’ night out at Ladies Night feat Artful Dodger at Windsor Racecourse, Mon 17 Jun

Find more ideas here

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8 comments on “The toughest woman in sport”

  • Alan Boys October 19, 2020

    So happy to see hollies riding and doing so well …she seems so nice in her personality and ways ….I can see her being the champion jockey a few times ….and Tom put a ring on her finger .😉

    • rachel October 20, 2020

      Engaged as well. Wow.

  • Belinda lloyd October 17, 2020

    Well done holly you deserve it your parents must be very proud ,bel and Russell lloyd

    • rachel October 18, 2020

      What a season Holly has had!!! A phenomenal jockey. So thrilled for her.

  • John Reid x jockey June 15, 2019

    John a reid Jockey Coach. I had the pleasure of coaching Hollie for the first two years of her career, I never met any one so determind to succeed as a jockey, I once refused to coach her even though she had driven all the way from wales to Lambourne for a lesson ,she had broken a finger two days before, but refused to leave until I did some work with her. That is what makes her what she is today. One of the best jockeys riding

    • rachel June 17, 2019

      Hi John
      Wow! Hollie’s work ethic is off the chart. Can’t wait to see her ride at Ascot.
      Rachel x

  • Ewan Coram June 12, 2019

    I have been following Hollie Doyle’s career for a few years and as well as being a very good, improving jockey she is also a shy, delightful, level headed, bright, bubbly, charming, young lady. I can only wish her the very best of luck, ask her to continue to work hard and do not stop being so damned nice. 👍🏇😅💞🌹🏆

    • rachel June 13, 2019

      OMG, nice, talented and hard working. A killer combo, Ewan.


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