Cambridge-born James Doyle is the son of former trainer Jacqueline Doyle and the younger brother of Sophie Doyle, now a successful jockey in the United States. He rode his first winner, Farnborough, trained by Richard Price, in a lowly Class 6 apprentices’ handicap on the then Polytrack surface at Wolverhampton in June, 2005. Nowadays, Doyle is best known as former stable jockey to Wilthshire trainer Roger Charlton, whom he joined in 2012, and retained jockey for Godolphin, whom he joined in 2015.
Doyle recorded his first British Group One victory on Al Kazeem, trained by Charlton, in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, 2013 and his second, on the same horse, in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park less than three weeks later. He has since won numerous Group One winners on British soil, including the Prince of Wales’s Stakes twice more, on Poet’s Word in 2018 and Lord North in 2020, the St.James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot twice, on Kingman in 2014 and Barney Roy in 2017, and the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, again on Kingman in 2014.
For all his success at the highest level, Doyle has yet to win a British Classic, although he has won two on the opposite side of the Irish Sea. The first of them came courtesy of Cartier Horse of the Year, Kingman, in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh in 2014 and the second courtesy of Sea of Class, trained by William Haggas, at the same venue in 2018.
Historically, the three English Classic races open to three-year-old colts – namely the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger – constituted the so-called ‘English Triple Crown’. However, the last horse to win all three races was Nijinsky in 1970 and, in the intervening five decades, breeding for speed and the obvious attraction of more glamorous races, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, has meant that Triple Crown contenders have been few and far between.
That said, since Nijinsky, such luminaries as Nashwan in 1989, Sea The Stars in 2009 and, most recently, Camelot in 2012 have all completed the 2,000 Guineas – Derby double. Nashwan and Sea The Stars both bypassed the St. Leger in favour of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and, although Nashwan ultimately missed the Longchamp showpiece after a ‘lifeless’ defeat, at long odds-on, in his preparatory race, Sea The Stars confirmed his status as one of the greatest racehorses of all time by becoming the first horse in history to complete the 2,000 Guineas – Derby – Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe treble in the same year.
By contrast, the last horse to win the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, Camelot, did attempt the Triple Crown. Nevertheless, despite starting long odds-on for the fifth and final Classic, Camelot went down by three-quarters of a length to 25/1 outsider Encke.
The late Sir Henry Cecil, who died of cancer on June 11, 2013, at the age of 70, is best known as the trainer of Frankel, the highest rated horse in the history of Timeform and World Thoughbred Rankings, who retired, unbeaten in 14 races, in October, 2012. However, while Cecil, who was kinghted for services to horse racing in 2011, may have described Frankel as ‘the best horse I’ve ever seen’, he was arguably one of the greatest trainers in history.
Unfortunately his career was overshadowed by controversy but, in his heyday, between the late Seventies and early Nineties, Cecil was Champion Trainer ten times. Overall, he saddled 25 British Classic winners and was particularly adept with fillies, winning the Oaks eight times, including with Fillies’ Triple Crown heroine Oh So Sharp in 1985, and the 1,000 Guineas six times. He also won the Derby four times, including with British Horse of the Year, Reference Point, in 1987, the St. Leger four times and the 2,000 Guineas three times. Until June, 2018, when Poet’s Word, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, won the St. James’s Palace Stakes, Cecil also held the record for the most winners at Royal Ascot, having saddled 75 in his long, illustrious career.
The 2,000 Guineas, open to three-year-old colts and fillies only and run over a straight mile on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket in late April or early May, is the second youngest of the English Classic horse races. Established by the Jockey Club, under the direction of Chairman, Sir Charles Bunbury, in 1809, the 2,000 Guineas took its name from its original prize fund; a guinea amounted to £1/1/- in pre-decimal currency, so the race was originally worth £2,100 in prize money.
According to the Bank of England inflation calculator, with inflation averaged at 2.1% a year over the intervening two centuries or so, £2,100 in 1809 equates to £170,895.00 by 2019 standards. Since 2011, the 2,000 Guineas has been sponsored by Qatari investment company Qipco and constitutes the first race of the season in the ‘Mile’ division of the British Champions’ Series. In 2019, the 2,000 Guineas was actually worth a total of £500,000, with a first prize of £283,550, so it would be fair to say that the race has fared well, in inflationary terms.