James Doyle was thrilled to ride a rare winner for the opposition after steering Warm Heart to top-level success in the Pertemps Network Yorkshire Oaks.
Having been retained by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation for the past eight years, opportunities to don the silks of a major rivals in Coolmore have unsurprisingly been few and far between.
But with Ryan Moore opting to partner Irish Oaks heroine Savethelastdance on the Knavesmire, Doyle got the call for Warm Heart, who impressed in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June but was beaten five and a half lengths into fifth place by her stablemate at the Curragh last month.
The Cambridge-born jockey, trading his usual royal blue colours for pink, was keen to make the most of the opportunity.
“They’re two great teams and there’s been some immense battles over the years,” said Doyle.
“I grew up watching those titanic battles with horses like Fantastic Light (beating Galileo) in the Irish Champion Stakes. They were great races to watch and it really means a lot.
“I’ve ridden for Aidan (O’Brien) for a few years now and have not quite got the results I hoped. When you ride one of his you know you’ve got a squeak.”
Although passed over by Moore, Doyle was confident his mount was lining up with major claims.
He said: “I was thrilled to pick up this ride. I was quietly hoping I could and I was praying I did as I thought back on fast ground and this track would definitely suit her.
“I was praying we got a tiny bit of rain so the other one (Savethelastdance) would run, but anyway it all worked out and I can’t be more thankful to the team for entrusting me with a ride like this.”
With conditions far less demanding, Moore was in no mood to hang around, sending Savethelastdance straight to the lead in an attempt to grind his rivals into submission.
Doyle, though, cut a confident figure in Moore’s wing mirrors for the full length of the straight and played his cards as late as he dared.
After kicking a couple of lengths clear, Warm Heart had to contend with the late lunge of Free Wind and Frankie Dettori, but gritted her teeth to cling on by a head.
“I was thinking it would be quite tricky early on as even over a mile and a half being drawn nine of 10 is not ideal, but it just worked out perfectly,” Doyle added.
“Suddenly I was one off the rail after a furlong and was able to bring her back and relax as I did have to ask her to jump quite sharp.
“I was able to save all the way round. There was a moment Bluestocking came to me and I just had to wake her up and she really came alive for me.
“Before the race Aidan said ‘try to be the last one to challenge inside the furlong pole’, but she took me down through the two and nothing could take me any further. I was just praying for the furlong pole to come and I had to go a little bit earlier, just to really focus her up.
“When Frankie came at me I thought ‘here we go again’, but she was very brave, which is a quality Aidan O’Brien really trains in these horses – when you get in the guts of a battle, you like to be on them.”
O’Brien was fulsome in his praise of Doyle’s talent.
“We always go through who is available and we always use James when he’s available, obviously he’s not available that much,” he said.
“He’s a gentleman, a very classy rider and very determined and very strong. He has all the qualities and always had.
“I knew he was doing his best whatever way it was going to fall. They’re not easy instructions and I don’t think he could have played it much later as Frankie was forcing him to go. I thought he gave her a brilliant ride really.
“It looked like Frankie was going to come by her, but she found again. James was very strong on her.”