Hashida: 'Britain's best' Hollie Doyle aboard for Deirdre's swansong

Assistant Trainer Yoshi Hashida and leading jockey Hollie Doyle talk to Liz Price ahead of the final race for Japanese wondermare Deirdre in Friday's Bahrain International Trophy.

By Liz Price

Connections of DEIRDRE, without doubt the greatest ambassador in the history of the Japanese Turf, are hoping for a fairy tale ending for the six-year-old mare when she lines up at the start of the £500,000 Bahrain International Trophy at Sakhir on Friday, where she will be partnered for the first time by riding sensation jockey Hollie Doyle.

Watch the Bahrain International Trophy from Sakhir live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 20th November at 1pm.

Many of her fans had expected the Mitsuru Hashida-trained globetrotter to retire to stud after finishing eighth in the 2020 edition of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October but Hashida’s son Yoshi, who has accompanied her on all her trips around the world, explained: “Deirdre is obviously extremely well bred, as she is by Harbinger out of Reizend and has a lovely career to look forward to and we want her to be in good form when she goes into the next phase of her career.

“She ran in Paris in October and it would have been a good time to call it a day, but her owner, he doesn’t say much to us, he doesn’t put any pressure on us, but he did say, maybe it would be nice to see her one more time in a good condition again. And seeing that it’s very sunny here, we are very happy.”

Deirdre has produced her best performances when temperatures have been hot, like in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, where she was beaten only a head by Port Lions, and also in the summer of 2019 when she lifted the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. Hence, she is getting a lot of support in this 1m2f event where Sovereign, last year’s Irish Derby winner, is sharing favouritism with the John Gosden-trained Global Giant and the locally-trained Port Lions.

Although the field is much more competitive than it was last year for its inaugural running, Deirdre’s connections are confident, as they are counting on their secret weapon, which or shall we say who, is no other than Britain’s Hollie Doyle.

“She is the best jockey in Britain at the moment,” Yoshi Hashida said with conviction on Wednesday morning after Deirdre drew gate number seven, which produced many happy faces on the Japanese table.

“It is not a big statement. It’s the truth,” pursued Yoshi Hashida. “When we saw her at Ascot we were impressed and then it was British Champions Day, which sealed it for us. I think she was riding a good horse, but he was not special, but she made him win. That is why we want her.

“Oisin is a great jockey and so is Jamie and we learnt a lot and they made us famous. But we are at the end of her career and it is sometimes difficult to keep a horse and especially a mare going. So, we need a special jockey. We are not choosing her because she is a girl, we chose her because we believe she is the best.”

Hollie Doyle, a Sky Sports Racing Ambassador, is certainly flying this season and has just been confirmed only the third female rider to participate in the Longines International Jockey’s Challenge in Hong Kong next month.

She says: “I was really surprised to be invited to the IJC in Hong Kong with the likes of Ryan Moore and Pierre-Charles Boudot and all the others. I am in amongst a crowd of elite jockeys and it’s just great.”

To be called the best jockey in Britain would be putting pressure on the most seasoned of her colleagues, but she takes it all in her stride.

“It was a massive surprise (to be called the best jockey), but it is a great honour really.” She smiles and continues: “I’m really pleased with the draw in Bahrain. I’ve got plenty of options. The pace is drawn quite wide in my opinion. I have got Frankie on my inside and Ryan on my outside, so I can keep an eye on what they are up to. I’m pretty pleased with it.”

Hollie Doyle
Hollie Doyle can write more history in the Bahrain International Trophy on Deirdre.

Hollie has already met Deirdre when she took her for a canter up the Al Bahathri gallop at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago and is exciting by the prospect of riding her in what is most likely her final start of an amazing career.

“She felt really good when I cantered her. She is typical mare, but I hope the sun on her back will do her good. I have watched every run she’s had. She has so much ability. She really deserves to get her head back in front. There is a bit of pressure and I can only hope that I can give her every chance to run the best possible race.”

A victory on the six-year-old mare who has a huge following in Japan would be the icing on the cake of a very successful season, although the year is far from over yet and Hollie Doyle has a huge smile on her face when she says: “Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that I would end up here. If I was to win with Deirdre it would mean the world to me.”

Watch the Bahrain International Trophy from Sakhir live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 20th November at 1pm.

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