Marcus Townend’s review of racing in 2020: Jockey Hollie Doyle on the crest of a wave, Tom Eaves produced the ride of the year but a sad finale for Enable in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe
- Doyle’s third place in Sports Personality of the Year capped a successful year
- Enable’s sixth place to Sottsass at Longchamp was a sad end to a brilliant career
- Tom Eaves produced the ride of the year in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
It has been a year with more daunting obstacles than the Grand National, and the trouble is that we’re only coming to the end of the first circuit.
Gloom has jostled with glory in 2020, but there are still plenty of indelible memories from the last year.
PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
Hollie Doyle’s third place in BBC Sports Personality of the Year — a programme which has treated racing with cursory interest since the Beeb lost terrestrial broadcasting rights — showed how much she has achieved.
Hollie Doyle is comfortable in the spotlight and a Flat champion jockey contender
A first Group One win, a first success at Royal Ascot and more than 150 British winners go with a shedload of awards. But the major step forward was the number of big operations booking her to ride. Doyle, 24, is the first British female rider who looks a genuine Flat champion jockey contender.
She is also looking more at home in the spotlight, which is good given it is going to shine on Doyle and her equally talented partner Tom Marquand plenty more in the future.
After being beaten on atrocious Longchamp ground in the 2019 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe, Enable was bidding for an historic third win. But when the John Gosden-trained mare arrived, there was terrible weather again. The sinking feeling was tangible as the race approached and Enable’s sixth place to Sottsass was a sad end to a brilliant career.
Enable’s sixth place finish in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe was a sad end to a brilliant career
RIDE OF THE YEAR
Tom Eaves sought the advice of Ryan Moore before riding Kevin Ryan-trained Glass Slippers to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland. Eaves spends the majority of his working life competing at low-key meetings on the northern circuit, but performed his part perfectly on one of the greatest stages in world racing.
The enduring memory of the Cheltenham Festival wasn’t Al Boum Photo’s second Gold Cup win or Epatante’s Champion Hurdle victory but the heartbreak of Jamie Moore being unseated at the last hurdle with the Triumph Hurdle won, when mount Goshen made a mistake and tripped himself up.
Tom Eaves produced the ride of the year on Glass Slippers in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
SADDEST OF TIMES
The suicide of jump jockey James Banks in February shook the sport and it was scarcely believable that Grand National winner Liam Treadwell should also be found dead in June. Liam had suffered concentration and mental health issues in the aftermath of a series of falls, including one which left him unconscious for four minutes. Given the current focus on concussion in sport, it will be interesting what is said when the inquest into his death reconvenes in February.
FENCES TO MEND
Oisin Murphy claimed a second champion jockey title, but his three-month ban after testing positive for cocaine while riding in France took the gloss off the award — even though the result was said to have been caused by contamination via a sexual partner who had used the drug. Murphy, 25, is an engaging character, but with success comes responsibility. He says he has learned his lesson about putting himself in risky situations. Hopefully he is true to his word.
END OF AN ERA
Barry Geraghty enjoyed a sensational Cheltenham Festival with five winners but his retirement signalled the end of an era. The 41-year-old was the last of a golden generation of Irish jump jockeys to retire following Paul Carberry, Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh.
Barry Geraghty was the last of a golden generation of Irish jump jockeys to retire
Racing can pat itself on the back for generally pulling together to ensure the sport kept going after the June 1 restart. But the fault lines are barely covered, with factional interest on hold ahead of 12 months when Levy reform and the Government review of gambling laws could have a significant effect on the sport. Then there’s Brexit. New BHA chief executive Julie Harrington takes the helm next month. Wish her luck.
THE BIG DEBATE
Aside from Covid-19, arguably the biggest off-track development was the launch of the Horse Welfare Board in February. Its aim is to ensure the highest standards of equine welfare and quality of life for racehorses.
But the nettle to be grasped remains use of the whip. That debate will re-open in 2021 with the Welfare Board having already said the minimum it expects is an increase in penalties for misuse.
Some want more drastic action while others argue that rules should not pander to the clamour from those outside the sport.