PARIS: Hollie Doyle became the first female jockey to win a French classic race when she rode favourite Nashwa to victory in the French Oaks (Prix de Diane) at Chantilly on Sunday.
The 25-year-old English jockey had finished third on Nashwa in the Epsom Oaks earlier this month but made no mistake this time riding a brilliant race to prevail.
She has long been seen as flat racing’s equivalent of Irish jumps jockey Rachael Blackmore, who made history in being the first female rider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup (2022) and the Grand National (2021).
Doyle was congratulated by her fellow jockey and husband Tom Marquand — who finished seventh on Zellie — after passing the post but the winning rider refused to get swept up in what she had achieved.
“I am just priviliged to be in this position. she said.
“It’s such a prestigious race and this is a huge honour.
“I would not be sitting on this classy filly but for Imad al Sagar (the owner) asking me to ride for him in 2020.”
Doyle grinned when it was suggested that she was as much a star as Nashwa.
“I don’t know about that!”
It was left to Nashwa’s trainer John Gosden — who shares the licence with his son Thady — to lavish praise on her.
“It is wonderful,” said Gosden. “She is a very talented rider. She’s very serious and principled but has a great sense of humour.
“She rode a very good race in what was a muddled contest.
“Full marks to Nashwa’s owner-breeder Imad Al Sagar, who asked me two years ago who he should pick, and I and other people said Hollie Doyle,” added the 71-year-old Englishman.
Doyle was forced to make most of the running and looked to be easy prey for Gerald Mosse as he launched his challenge on La Parisienne in the final two furlongs (400 metres).
But Doyle and Nashwa dug deep to deny 55-year-old Mosse a sixth win in the race — his first win in 1988 came eight years before she was born.
“We were so close but the winner is a rock and was brilliantly ridden by her jockey,” said Yann Lerner who along with his father Carlos trains La Parisienne.
Doyle’s performance outstripped that of Jessica Marcialis, who in October 2020 became the first female jockey to win a French Group One race, the Marcel Boussac.
Her first classic victory comes two years after Doyle recorded her first Group One success The Champions Sprint on Glen Shiel and finished fourth in the jockey’s championship.
Based on her exploits she then went on that year to be named the Sunday.
Childhood sweethearts Doyle and Marquand have managed to keep their professional rivalry separate from their personal life.
Marquand says she is the “boss” and Doyle says he is “the romantic” with the former saying in 2020 “we are so lucky to be with each other since I was 14.”
“I think he was just as happy as I was,” said Doyle following the French Oaks.
“We’re always pretty happy for each other, so I think he was delighted.”
Two years ago Marquand — who is a year younger than Doyle — said despite their success on the track they could pass unnoticed by the general public.
“She was recognised by a taxi driver the other day!” joked Marquand.
“But we pass as children normally.” That may become more difficult after Sunday’s historic ride.