Racing waits, hopes and votes as record-breaking Hollie Doyle chases BBC award
Hollie Doyle has enjoyed a record-breaking 147 victories on home soil this year. That may yet prove not to be her maximum total, for on Sunday evening in front of millions of BBC1 viewers, a remarkable jockey has the chance to be elevated alongside some of Britain's greatest sportspeople.
Regardless of whether or not Doyle wins the race to be crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year – and after a massive contraction in her odds she is now clear second favourite – her achievement is already huge. History tells you that.
Since the most prestigious award in British sport was launched in 1954, racing has only once produced the winner. Furthermore, Sir Anthony McCoy, a runaway champion in 2010 after his famous Grand National triumph, is one of just two racing figures to be placed, with his 2002 and 2013 thirds matched by Frankie Dettori, who took that position in 1996, the year of his 'Magnificent Seven'.
Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, when racing was broadcast on two mainstream channels in a purely terrestrial age, household names such as Lester Piggott, Willie Carson and John Francome all came and went without recognition.
That said, in a rare nod to the sport, Red Rum appeared in the studio after his third Grand National win in 1977.
If, therefore, Doyle could emerge from the six-strong list of nominees to secure a place, or perhaps even better, she would have managed something incredible.
Moreover, having this week been backed from 25-1 into 9-4, there are plenty of people who believe she could beat F1 legend, 2014 winner and four-time runner-up Lewis Hamilton, who has this week drifted from 1-5 to 1-2 in response to the support for Doyle.
The recipient of the iconic trophy needs to win a public online and telephone vote, which will be activated during the live programme, which begins at 8pm.
Also in contention are Ronnie O'Sullivan (snooker), Jordan Henderson (football), Tyson Fury (boxing) and Stuart Broad (cricket). All those are now quoted by bookmakers at much bigger odds than Doyle.
In recent weeks Doyle has been showered with awards, as befits a jockey who this year has cemented her status as the most successful female jockey in British racing history.
She rode her first Group 1 winner aboard Glen Shiel on Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot, where she also broke her royal meeting duck in June, while at Windsor in August she became the first woman to ride a five-timer in Britain.
The 24-year-old has smashed her 2019 total for largest total of wins by a female jockey in a calendar year, posted fourth in the championship, beaten some of the world's best riders in Hong Kong and continued her unstoppable form with a Saturday success at Deauville.
Despite her weekend trip to France, Doyle is permitted to attend the ceremony in Manchester, where joining her will be partner Tom Marquand, another jockey to have enjoyed a tremendous year.
Marquand said: "It's a massive occasion and we're both heading up for the awards tomorrow morning. It's just huge to be there and will be a fun evening no matter what the outcome is.
"It's not purely on achievement because there's lots of people who achieve something every year in racing. It's more the fact she's managed to grip people's imagination and taken them along for the ride. It's fantastic to be even considered for something like this and all eyes will be on the BBC on Sunday."
Marquand added: "Everyone from within racing has been fantastic and have really got behind Hollie. Hopefully, on the night it will be from outside racing as well. There's exceptional people in there with incredible achievements and she's one of them. It's great that it's happening and I know she really appreciates it."
Michael Owen, who won the award in 1998 when aged just 18, is a huge fan of Doyle.
The co-owner of Manor House Stables, said: "I think she's exceptional and I wish her luck on Sunday. I've watched her career develop with total admiration."
Reflecting on his Spoty triumph 22 years ago, the former world footballer of the year added: "It's a very different accolade to the ones I have won for football, but the memories of that night are still very special, and the trophies I received for winning it and then finishing third in 2001 are right at the front of the cabinet."
Giving a personal message to Doyle via a Great British Racing video, Dettori said: "I was once third, so I hope you can do two better than me and get number one like Sir AP McCoy did. Fingers crossed, I hope everybody in racing votes for you and puts racing on the front pages."
The stars supporting Hollie
Oisin Murphy, champion jockey
Hollie is a star. I've ridden work regularly with Hollie over the past four years and her work ethic and feedback in the mornings translates to the afternoon. She is an incredible talent and an equally nice person.
Francesca Cumani, ITV broadcaster
What Hollie has done for the sport and for women in the sport has been phenomenal this year – and that smiling face just lights up any racecourse she goes to. Go get ’em Hollie!
Nick Skelton, Olympic show jumping gold medal winner and third in 2016 Spoty
I'm asking everybody in the equestrian world, please vote for Hollie. It really would mean a lot to everybody if she won this.
Jessica Marcialis, who this year became the first woman to ride a Group 1 winner in France
I think it's wonderful for Hollie to be recognised for her brilliant achievements this year. Forza Hollie!
John Gosden, champion trainer
I think Hollie is a very talented rider with a good attitude. She reminds me very much of the former top US rider Julie Krone.
John Ryan, trainer
Hollie has been a breath of fresh air. She's been so professional and forget about her gender, she gets on with the job and is as good as any rider out there. She just keeps on doing the job and it doesn't matter if it's a seller or a Group race, she gives it her all and always has the same attitude.
Michael Scudamore, trainer
I've been following Hollie a long time as I remember her going around the point-to-point tracks with her father. She's a great girl and a credit to her family. Her riding speaks for itself and hopefully it all goes well.
Kerry Lee, trainer
I think once upon a time her dad rode out for my dad. It's absolutely fantastic and I'm delighted for all the family. She's a fantastic jockey and I wish her every success. I have great admiration for her.
BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award
Paddy Power: 4-9 Lewis Hamilton, 9-4 Hollie Doyle, 10 Ronnie O'Sullivan, 25 Tyson Fury, Jordan Henderson, 275 Stuart Broad
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