Dubai Racing Club has announced the four finalists for the People’s Choice Award, and as the name suggests, fans will vote to decide the winner of this accolade which recognises the most compelling moment in horseracing worldwide since the 2019 Dubai World Cup. It is a part of the HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Horse Racing Excellence Awards, inaugurated in 2017, with Hong Kong female jockey Kei Chiong Ka-kei, winning the first award in this category for her record four race wins on one day. In 2018 Lady Eli was the most popular among fans, for her miraculous recovery from a life-threatening condition and her remarkable courage allowing her to become an American champion. Australian superstar mare Winx was the most recent awardee in 2019, a crowd favourite, and among the many highlights earning her the nomination and award with a record four consecutive wins in the Cox Plate.
HAIL HOLLIE! JOCKEY DOYLE DARES THE MEN TO KEEP UP
When 24-year-old British jockey Hollie Doyle was named third in the 2020 edition of BBC’s Sport Personality of The Year, she emulated a feat accomplished by the legendary Frankie Dettori and placed horse racing firmly in the spotlight. The award put her in the company of sporting legends like Formula One- star Lewis Hamilton and football icon Jordan Henderson. It was a result of Doyle’s very impressive list of extraordinary achievements in 2020. Riding five winners in one afternoon, a victory at Royal Ascot with G1 success on British Champions’ Day, becoming the first woman to ride a winner at the International Jockeys’ Championship in Hong Kong and her record-breaking 151 wins, with 373 podium finishes are just some excerpts from Doyle’s remarkable year. In winning the award she also made a very important announcement to the world – that she had achieved success as an outstanding jockey, rather than a woman jockey. Having learned to ride on a pony at a young age, Doyle claims “I sat on a horse before I could even walk!”. Both her parents Mark and Caroline were jockeys, which meant Hollie was immersed in the sport from the very beginning, going on to attain unprecedented success through dedication and hard work. One of the fittest jockeys on the circuit, amongst both men and women, Doyle is now a regular on the international arena, having earned a ride on the Breeders Cup card, Team Deirdre (Japan) called upon her services at the Bahrain International Trophy and she made history in Hong Kong, finishing third in the International Jockeys’ Championship. Famous for her work ethic and relentless pursuit of excellence Hollie Doyle was named 2020 Sunday Times Sportswoman of The Year and HWPA Jockey of The Year in Britain, where many are of the opinion it is only a matter of time before she becomes the country’s first female champion.
TONY MULLINS SCRIPTS PRINCESS ZOE’S RAGS TO RICHES STORY
On a damp Paris afternoon in the October of 2020, when a lucky few were allowed into Longchamp hoping to watch a great mare named Enable win a historic third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, they were instead wooed by a previously less-heralded mare –Princess Zoe- who proved the unexpected star. Enable was gracious in defeat, while Princess Zoe announced her entry into an elite club, by winning the Group 1 Prix du Cadran at France’s premier racecourse, reversing her previous poor form, and rising to the top of the ratings charts in just half a year. Irish trainer Tony Mullins is credited with this remarkable success story, having spotted her potential. He was instrumental in transforming this gutsy mare as she rapidly travelled up the ratings from 64 to 110 in under six months. Having raced for a couple of seasons in Germany, Princess Zoe joined Tony Mullins for the 2020 season. Defeated on her first start for new connections armed with a rating of just 64, the Princess showed off her true class, when running through the opposition in her five next races, for impressive successes culminating in that Group 1 Prix du Cadran triumph with the sight of owner Paddy Kehoe and Mullins’ celebrations proving heart-warming to many after a difficult year. Princess Zoe will race on in 2021 when her target will be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself.
ALMOND EYE’S UNFORGETTABLE SAIYONARA
In 2020, Japan’s richest, most successful, and celebrated mare Almond Eye, shed her racing shoes and retired at the ripe old age of five after winning her second Japan Cup (G1). In a very short span of time, Almond Eye commanded the world’s attention and respect with her phenomenal record-breaking success, winning nine Group One races, the highest ever by a Japanese horse. She also topped the Japanese earnings chart with a career haul of close to US$ 19 million, earned over 11 wins from 15 starts. Trained by Japan’s Sakae Kuneida, the 5-year-old daughter of Lord Kanola swept the Japanese Fillies’ Triple Crown in 2018 and set a new world record while winning her first Japan Cup in a time of 2:20.6. She stepped on to the world stage, traveling well to Dubai to run in the G1 Dubai Turf in 2019. She showed her trademark turn of foot to win the race for her first overseas G1 title. She was meant to try to defend her Dubai title in 2020, but the pandemic did not allow it, instead she rounded off her final year with three G1 wins, starting with the Victoria Mile in May, the Tenno Sho (Autumn) in November and she crowned her glorious career with victory in the Japan Cup in her final racecourse appearance. She has now been placed as a broodmare at Northern Farm, the place of her own birth.
PART-TIME TRAINER SCORES BIG WITH MESSI
Part-time horse trainer Timo Keersmaekers would spend an average of 70 days on the road as a successful tableware businessman based out of Antwerp. The Covid-19 Pandemic forced the Belgian, to cut down his travel, and instead focus on his modest stable housing just eight horses, one of whom was about to take him on a journey of a lifetime. The main protagonist of this fascinating tale is Messi, an 8-year-old Purebred Arabian – who emerged as Keersmaekers’ best racing prospect in the yard, winning back-to-back races in Belgium and Germany in mid-2020, beating serious global superstars, culminating in victory in the richest Arab Race in Abu Dhabi – the $US 1.9 million, 2200m Group 1 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Jewel Crown. Messi’s victory made headlines across the world, as this small-time operation drew kudos from the global media. A feel-good story emerging out of the often-tragic Covid-19 experience. Owned and bred by Keersmaekers, Messi began showing signs of his potential, and the ‘full extent of his speed’ through a winning streak in Belgium and Germany, twice accounting for top-rated Saudi star Mashhur Al Khalediah including in the United Arab Emirates President Cup Listed Stakes. Keersmaekers decided it was time to take the show on the road to France, entering Messi for the prestigious G1 Qatar Arabian World Cup at the Longchamp racecourse in October. Messi finished a close second, and this was enough to inspire Keersmaekers’ decision to travel to Abu Dhabi, where Messi reached the pinnacle of his career.
Fans will be able to vote on the HH Racing Awards website.