For Hollie Doyle, 2020 was the year that cemented her ascent from talented young jockey to one of the very best in the business. The 24-year-old rides on the flat racing circuit in the UK, Ireland and occasionally in Asia too, and her list of achievements is increasing by the week.
Having overcome adversity – as is common in the bone-crunching world of horse racing, Doyle has suffered numerous injuries and one awful fall in which she lost several teeth to establish herself as one of the leading flat jockeys around, breaking the record for the most winners from a female in a single season in 2019.
She broke her own during this campaign, and that saw a nomination from the BBC in their prestigious end-of-year awards – Doyle’s name appears in the Sports Personality of the Year 2020 odds alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Tyson Fury and Jordan Henderson. That is a wonderful achievement both for her individually and for horse racing as a whole, given that the sport is often overlooked at such award shows.
So what an outstanding achievement it would be for Doyle to land the BBC trophy in a year that has seen her ride her first Group 1 winner at British Champions Day, finishing fourth in the Flat Jockeys’ Championship and even earning a ride in the Breeders’ Cup.
Smashing the Glass Ceiling
All of the great and good of British sport have won the BBC’s Personality of the Year award, which dates back to 1954 and celebrates the achievements of a sporting star that has impressed more than any other in the preceding 12 months.
There has been a rich history of those involved in equine sports, from horse racing to eventing and equestrian, being nominated for the award, however it is rare that they have got their hands on the trophy.
Legendary figures in show jumping, including Marion Coakes and Harvey Smith, finished third in the early days of the award before David Broome was announced as the winner in 1960 after claiming bronze medals at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships.
Princess Anne, the fourteenth in line to the throne, won a gold medal in the equestrianism event at the European Championships in 1971, and she too was voted as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year by viewers – incidentally, her daughter Zara also won the award in 2006 after triumphing in the Eventing World Championship.
Horse racing has largely been overlooked in the voting, although Frankie Dettori finished third in 1996 after his famous ‘magnificent seven’ wins at Royal Ascot.
Then, in 2002, Tony McCoy finished third after becoming the all-time leading jumps jockey, and eight years later he finally had his moment of glory following a year in which he finally claimed the win he’d always wanted – the Grand National, which he won at the fifteenth attempt aboard Don’t Push It.
As you can see, there is a lineage of those involved in equine sports to enjoy some success in the BBC contest, but Hollie Doyle would be the first female representative of horse racing to win the Sports Personality of the Year prize. That would be yet another glass ceiling smashed.