Dubai: Passionate show jumper, trainer par excellence and mum of two world-class jockeys, Jacqueline Doyle is a horsewoman like no other. In the UAE ahead of the Dubai World Cup on March 31, the Briton is busy writing track tales that only someone of her calibre can come up with. But speak to her for an insight on careers in horse racing and there’s no mistaking she makes for a great story herself.
“Women trainers are a rare breed out here,” says the former trainer, counting on her fingertips the names that matter.
So why are there so few and what does it take to be trainer?
“Well, it’s not that simple. You have to have a genuine love for horses and the confidence in your ability to succeed. You need a lot of family support and a hefty bank balance - or be able to find a good sponsor.”
A world first
As a single mother who has trained many horses and mentored son James Doyle, a high profile Godolphin team rider and daughter Sophie Doyle, celebrated US-based jockey, Jacqueline should know. The Doyle siblings have many accolades to their credit - they even made history in 2015 when they became the world’s first brother-sister duo to ride in the Breeder’s Cup in the US.
“I am immensely proud of their achievements,” says Jacqueline. She talks of how aside from riding skills, fitness is a key requisite for a jockey. “The modern day jockey has to be very fit and athletic to succeed. He or she has to have a suitable build with an adult weight not exceeding 55 kilograms. Dedication is a must as each race, horse and course is different, so there’s a lot of preparation required for a racing season. Often, remuneration means getting a percentage of the prize money.” Besides trainers and jockeys, other positions around racehorse stables include those of showjumpers, exercise riders, farriers, grooms, jockey and bloodstock agents and track veterinarians.
As Jacqueline sees it, careers in horseracing are not about having a job. “They are a way of life. You have to be around horses all the time. The journey can be tough and frustrating, but also eventful and glorious.”
She says she and her kids were exposed to horses from a very young age. “My dad was an indulgent man and spoilt me with many horses to enable me to pursue showjumping. I would attend the races with him and compete in all major shows on the circuit. Over the years, my love for horses only grew and I became a trainer when I separated from my husband. “There were no courses for trainers in those days. To get a licence, you had to have a healthy bank balance, show proof that people would give their horses to you and get through a rigorous interview at the Jockey Club. Growing up with horses helped.” It was the same with James and Sophie. “While other kids had cats and dogs as pets, my kids played with ponies. They would bring them to the breakfast table. While others outgrew uniforms and shoes, my children outgrew ponies. I would buy them bigger ones as they got older. James knew he wanted to become a jockey by the time he was five. Sophie decided on becoming one at 21. She was keen on showjumping and exercise riding earlier.”
The Doyles’ tryst with Dubai began in 2010 when James was roped in by a Jebel Ali stable. “I was on holiday in Dubai and found myself coming back with a racehorse to run in the Carnival. My work has taken me to different parts of the world but there was something about Dubai that makes it extra special.”