Doyle in the big league at last

GLORIOUS GOODWOOD: Sayyedati's win in the Sussex Stakes gives stature to a rider once compared to a flea on an elephant
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The Independent Online
When Clive Brittain answered the door he thought he had been the victim of a practical joke as the view was clear in front of him. Lowering his gaze he saw the diminutive figure of a 13-year-old boy. "I asked for Mr Brittain and he told me he was Mr Brittain," Brett Doyle recounted yesterday of an initial meeting in 1986. "I just wanted a job, to be a jockey, to be a paperboy, anything."

Nine years on, Doyle repaid the Newmarket trainer's decision to take him on by winning the Group One Sussex Stakes here yesterday on the five- year-old mare, Sayyedati. The scenes of celebration would not have been envisaged by those who witnessed Doyle's first attempts at riding, times when he regularly connected with terra firma even in loose schools. "But he kept getting back on," Brittain said. "He looked like a flea on an elephant's head."

Even today Doyle weighs in at just 7st 5lb, and his emaciated frame coupled with the spotty signs of youth about his face mean he should carry a passport into pubs despite his 22 years. There was no callowness yesterday, however, no nerves as the jockey prepared for his ride. "I was confident because Mr Brittain told me to be confident," Doyle reported.

In the parade ring before the Sussex there were some splendid beasts. Bahri, the favourite, was hugely imposing and Darnay, the property of gum-chewing Sheikh Mohammed (not many Defence Ministers chew gum) appeared as if he had just stepped off a canvas. Sayyedati, with a chess board- patterned backside, looked serene, as befitted a horse having her 19th run. If Mohammed Obaida, her wizened owner, was hopeful it did not extend to other matters. He carried an umbrella over his arm.

Doyle carried out the game plan as soon as the stalls opened, restraining Sayyedati at the rear of the six-strong field. As Sulb, the pacemaker, dropped away, Darnay took over, but the encouraging sight for favourite backers was the languid shape of the Willie Carson-ridden Bahri waiting to pounce. In his slipstream, though, was the equally untroubled form of Sayyedati.

A furlong from home Doyle drew level with Carson and a duel developed that demonstrated two riding techniques, the Scot deep in the saddle and pushing away, the tyro high on his mount's neck in American style and appearing as if he was trying to climb between her ears. At the line the transatlantic method was a neck clear.

"I got a great response from her," the winning jockey said. "She had a lot in the tank and she picked up like lightning. Every time Bahri came to her she stretched her neck out. I could see he was there but he was hard at work. He wasn't going to get by me."

When Doyle returned he met with a slap of congratulation. There was a high five from Clive. The trainer metaphorically touched another part of the rider's hand later, rapping his knuckles for standing up in the saddle and waving his whip as he crossed the winning line. (Walter Swinburn, questioned about the erratic course of Soviet Line in this race, later received a more tangible admonishment, being suspended for two days for his ride on Pilsudski).

Sayyedati will now contest the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville next month and then the Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park, where the tight turns are expected to suit her style of running. Brittain would like more after that. "I pray she stays in training at six because horses like her don't grow on trees," he said. "You only get one foal a year and you'd be lucky to get one with the quality of her."

Sayyedati's was not the only exhibition of excellence. Thirty five minutes later Alhaarth swept to victory in the Champagne Stakes with a conviction that earned quotes as low as of 16-1 for both the 2,000 Guineas and Derby of 1996. Dick Hern, his trainer, revealed that powerful sources had been on his side. "Before the race I saw an Irish priest who comes over every year," he reported. "I asked him to say a little prayer for us."

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