Sky Sports Racing ambassador Hollie Doyle is back in action at Royal Ascot on Friday with five rides, including old favourite Scarlet Dragon who bids to emulate her breakthrough win at the meeting 12 months ago in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap.
SCARLET DRAGON’S amazing victory in last season’s Duke of Edinburgh Stakes will live with me forever. He was my first Royal Ascot winner and we’ll be trying our best to repeat the feat in the big handicap on Friday (5.35).
He’s a cheeky old horse who takes a bit of knowing but we go back a long way together – I won the Old Rowley Cup on him as a 5lb claimer at Newmarket in 2016.
If he’s in the mood he’s more than capable of running another massive race, despite being a few pounds higher in the weights this time. I’m well drawn in stall six and there should be plenty of pace in the race, so my job will be to get him into a nice rhythm.
He can be keen in his races so it’s vital I get him to switch off but it’s also important to keep him interested! It would be great to be in the firing line again for Alan King and his wonderful owners Henry Ponsonby Racing.
Honoured to have first ride for Queen
Royal Ascot on Friday marks another milestone for me when I wear the silks of her Majesty The Queen for the very first time.
I ride her William Haggas-trained filly COMPANIONSHIP in the Sandringham Stakes, a race that often throws up a big-priced winner, so I’m certainly not put off by her large odds.
My fiancé Tom Marquand won on her on the All-Weather at Chelmsford City back in November and thought she’d make up into a nice three-year-old, but things didn’t go to plan on her first run of the year.
William ran her in the Listed Fillies’ Trial at Newbury last month but she came unstuck in the soft ground. With that in mind, she clearly won’t want the ground to get too wet but she could be very well handicapped off a mark of 81 if conditions are in her favour.
Dragon can be Commonwealth king
I ride my old friend MIGHTY GURKHA in a red hot renewal of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup (3.40) at Royal Ascot, and as a Group 3 winner he deserves to take his chance.
Owner Mohammed Rashid was keen to let him take his chance at the highest level in preference to the 5f Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap on the final day.
Mighty Gurkha has produced his best form over 6f, including a close fourth in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes over this course and distance at the end of April, so it would be lovely to be in the mix for a loyal supporter of Archie Watson’s Saxon Gate Stables.
Expect to see him blazing a trail from our middle draw in stall nine, on the opposite side of the draw to Archie’s better-fancied runner Dragon Symbol.
Champion jockey Oisin Murphy was always set to ride the grey, as he is friends with Japanese owner Yoshiro Kubota, and must be itching to get back on board after winning on him at Kempton Park and then watching him progress to a mark of 111.
This colt ran a brilliant race in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock Park last time, when he only just failed to reel in the winner Rohaan in testing ground. That was his first defeat in five races.
I rode him in his first two runs when he won at Wolverhampton and Newcastle and this race has been on his agenda ever since. Archie has managed him brilliantly and I’d be surprised if he didn’t justify his trainer’s faith with another big run.
Improving Gypsy has Albany date
I always enjoy riding for Gay Kelleway – the first female jockey to win at Royal Ascot, of course – so it’s nice to get the call up for her improving filly GYPSY LADY in the Group 3 Albany Stakes (2.30).
She’s improved with every run and built on a decent effort at Windsor when she won a 6f maiden on the All-Weather at Chelmsford City for Luke Morris last time.
On that evidence, she should see out this stiff 6f well but obviously has to find a lot more improvement to get involved. She’s by Mayson, and seemed to enjoy soft ground at Windsor, so any rain will probably improve her prospects.
Fast-run five should suit Desert
William Knight’s DESERT GULF will step onto turf in anger for the first time in the Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap (6.10) at Royal Ascot.
He won over 6f at Wolverhampton on debut last September and has run well in both starts this year since being gelded. In fact, he was little more than a length behind me on Archie Watson’s useful Excel Power at Lingfield.
The pace of a race like this should be right up his street and as he’s dropping back in trip I’m hoping he will pick up well for me off a relatively light weight in what looks an open race.
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