Dubai World Cup: Buick and co use rock star status to do a great PR job
It all started on a cold, winter’s evening at Kempton.
A babyfaced William Buick, 16, took that all-important leap of faith and made a permanent move from Norway to Kingsclere, joining the shrewd operation of Andrew Balding.
Driven to the Sunbury course by father Walter, it was Jacqueline Doyle, mother of jockeys James and Sophie, who was tasked with looking after Buick at the races before he headed off to his new home.
His relationship with the family has blossomed ever since.
Doyle, a former trainer and now journalist at Gulf News, says: “James asked me to take care of Will on that bitterly cold evening so I introduced him to my Norwegian mother, known to everyone as Mor Mor – the Norwegian for grandmother – and when he heard that word his eyes lit up. The rest is history.
“James and Will have tremendous banter. If one of them wins they're delighted and if one of them gives a horse a bad ride the other takes the piss out of them!
“They just bounce off each other and they're great company – they’ll be best friends for the rest of their lives.”
Life has gone full circle for the riders, who now sport the blue silks of Godolphin and compete against one another, sometimes for the same employer.
The additional white, red, black and white star caps will be out in force in the Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night at Meydan on Saturday, in which Godolphin field five runners, while Buick and Doyle also do battle in the Al Quoz Sprint, but whatever the outcome, their mutual respect and friendship will shine through.
Buick says: “Me and James have been friends since before I started riding and I get along really well with the Doyles – they’re a great racing family. My friendship with James has come a long way – we’re now work colleagues as well as good friends. We have huge respect for each other.
“Racing is a big family really. We all try to beat each other – that’s the objective at the end of the day – but it’s a fantastic industry that has great people and you make lifelong friends from around the world.”
Rides at Chelmsford and Lingfield over the next two days ensured Doyle missed Breakfast With The Stars at a sizzling Meydan on Thursday. Make that Breakfast With The Rock Stars.
Buick and trainers Saeed Bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby signed caps and posed for pictures with hundreds of racing fans, taking time to speak to each person, with those present passing on best wishes for the forthcoming big day. It was racing at its best.
Buick says: “It’s hugely important to spend time with people who make the effort to come here.
"Those of us in the sport have a duty to be accessible and if by us spending time speaking to people it helps attract new racing fans, that’s great.
“World Cup night is truly international and the people who come here make a huge impact on the single biggest one-day event in racing.
"In Britain there is such a flat-out schedule that it doesn’t lend itself to trainers and jockeys being that accessible, but over here it’s a different story.”
Buick, who nominates Al Quoz Sprint favourite Blue Point as his best chance from five rides, has enjoyed three World Cup-night winners from 26 rides.
There is no hiding the importance of it all for Godolphin as both the racecourse and the racenight were developed through the vision of Sheikh Mohammed.
Buick says: “Saturday is huge for Godolphin – it’s the equine Olympics and for us it’s as important as the Derby and Royal Ascot.
“I put pressure on myself as I want to do well, but there’s no external pressure. We’re all just seeking that big-race win.”
Buick on his big-race rides
Rare Rhythm (Dubai Gold Cup)
He's a lovely horse and very talented. We're hoping he can show how good he is. Vazirabad is the main danger and will have improved for his last run, but Rare Rhythm has come on too and is the new candidate on the stayers' scene.
Gold Town (UAE Derby)
He gave me a great feel in the UAE 2,000 Guineas last time. He's a very professional horse. He's improving all the time and the extra furlong and a half will suit him.
Blue Point (Al Quoz Sprint)
He's my best chance on the night. He had a lovely prep run and everything suggests he's peaking at the right time. The draw in stall 13 is fine and six furlongs on fast ground is his game.
Blair House (Dubai Turf)
His draw in stall 15 won't make it easy. A decent pace throughout will help though and he won well in the Jebel Hatta. We don't know just how good he is yet.
Hawkbill (Sheema Classic)
He's very tough and a real grinder. We were very pleased with his run last time and he will come on for it. He likes the trip, track and ground so ticks a lot of the boxes. He could be dangerous.
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