James Doyle loving life and racing Sydney-style

J A McGrath

The accent hasn't changed, but the jockey is becoming more Australian every day. James Doyle notched his eighth winner in Sydney at the weekend and is gradually becoming part of the local racing fabric.

The tale of the Englishman abroad is taking on new meaning as Doyle settles into his new role as Godolphin's Australian jockey, riding principally for John O'Shea, whose large team are trained at Osborne Park and Warwick Farm, outside Sydney.

Half a century ago, the great Scobie Breasley, Bill Williamson and Ron Hutchinson were Australian jockeys who journeyed to England to try their luck against the best in Europe.

Cambridge-born Doyle, 28, is doing the reverse, which makes him unique.

He has now been in Australia five weeks on this stint. He has found himself a beautiful Harbour-view apartment and is becoming accustomed to Sydney living.

"I feel very privileged," Doyle told me after partnering the mare Lycia to a gutsy last-to-first victory in Saturday's Australian Turf Club Handicap at Warwick Farm.

"I realise that not many people have had the opportunity to come over here and do something like this, never mind in a top job. Usually, it's the other way around, Aussies coming over to the UK.

"I suppose it was even harder for them. Each track in Britain is different. In Australia, the tracks all have their idiosyncrasies, but in Sydney, they are all right-handed, and also pretty flat compared to home.

"But here in Australia, there is a different style, a different tempo in the races, and then there's the tactical element and tightness (in a field).

"When I first came, I was worried about it all. But having been here five weeks, I seem to have settled in quite well, I think.

"In the weighing room, they are a good group of lads. It's a very friendly environment, but very competitive. It's every man for himself. There's not another retained rider, outside Godolphin. One man's hiccup is another man's gain out here," he pointed out.

Doyle's current Australian campaign started with a double on the first day - he had previously ridden in Sydney and Melbourne but mainly on second-string runners - and he has steadily added to the total.

"I am enjoying it very much," he said. "The first two race days, I found quite challenging. But each week, I am picking up little things. I feel I am adapting all the time.

"The tracks all have their little biases, but with John O'Shea's experience and Darren Beadman's help, I am able to get the right advice.

"As for living in Sydney, I am loving it. I have a beautiful view from my apartment. I have a swim in the morning, and go for nice long walks. It seems a very healthy way of living.

"Also, I feel the life-style and the racing environment itself are better for my weight. Doing my minimum of 56kg (8st 11lb) two or three times a week, I can do it properly. I can plan and manage it over a few days," he explained.

With the high-profile Godolphin horses, headed by Hartnell and Astern, about to reappear for their Autumn campaigns, Doyle is ready to step up a gear.

"My immediate ambition is just to keep riding winners, and to make as few mistakes as I can. When the 'big' runners come along, I will do the best I can on them, and hopefully collect some big prizes. I am looking forward to it," he said.