James Doyle says he 'could have ridden 100 winners' in the UK this season, but the chance to race in the UAE and the opportunity that presents was too good to pass up.
Buick's move opens the door for Doyle at Meydan
James Doyle came to the UAE as a stand-in jockey for William Buick, but he has already claimed three winners and believes he has another live chance at Meydan Racecourse Friday night.
Doyle, 23, is attached to the Jebel Ali yard and racecourse of Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid, where the long-time trainer, Dhruba Selvaratnam, plies his trade.
He will cover for Buick until January while Selvaratnam's regular jockey, who won five Group 1 races in Europe this summer, fulfils commitments to his English boss, John Gosden.
Gosden trains for Princess Haya bint Al Hussein and Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid.
Doyle had an excellent English season, riding 76 winners.
"It was my best so far," he said.
"I think that if I hadn't cut my English season short to come here I could have ridden 100 winners, which is a shame, but this was too good an opportunity to miss."
Doyle's riding experience belies his years.
He spent 2009/10 riding in India, where he claimed 10 victories.
"That was an extreme learning curve," said the rider.
"When I got off the plane I just wanted to get straight back on - the culture shock was huge. But it turned out to be one of the best things I've done, and it improved my riding a lot."
After India he headed to the UK for the 2010/11 season, and that was where Selvaratnam, a third-generation trainer, who has produced more than 1,000 winners, spotted him.
An endorsement from Buick and a quick chat with Doyle was all that Selvaratnam needed to appoint the jockey.
"I liked his style," said Selvaratnam, the Sri Lanka-born trainer.
"He is a quiet lad who has a stylish way of riding who just gets on with it."
Selvaratnam acknowledged that it was inconvenient that Buick, who will be entering his third season at Jebel Ali, was not available to return to the UAE until January.
"It's quite annoying," he said.
"We need him here and it seemed a bit pointless that John Gosden would keep him in England riding maidens, but that's the trouble when you have a good jockey.
"A lot of the same things that I liked about William when I first saw him, I also liked about James, and I hope that when William comes back, James will stay on."
Over the years, Selvaratnam has helped season a line of now high-flying jockeys.
He enjoyed a successful five-year association with Johnny Murtagh, the renowned big-race jockey, who went on to ride for Ballydoyle and the South African maestro, Mike de Kock.
Selvaratnam has retained the services of other top jockeys, including Brett Doyle, Willie Supple, Pat Smullen and, of course, Buick, who, according to Selvaratnam, is unlikely to have come to the attention of Gosden were it not for the patronage of the Jebel Ali yard.
"Sheikh Ahmed is very supportive of racing and he likes to have a hand in the development of the sport," Selvaratnam said.
"You have to have an eye on the bigger picture and a number of jockeys have seen their careers take off after riding here."
Doyle is hoping his own career can be furthered a bit more when he partners Selvaratnam's runners Friday night.
He rides Doon Kalal in the final race, a Dh65,000 1,600m handicap.
The four-year-old is on UAE debut having won two races, including a handicap, before making the trip to the desert.
"He's done some nice bits of work here," said Doyle, who has ridden the horse in the mornings.
"His first run in England was a bit below par, and the blinkers he wore on his next run seemed to focus him. He's a decent type, but a lot will depend on how he takes to Tapeta, which seems to be riding quite quick."
Doon Kalal faces competition from Doug Watson's Al Burkan under Jamie Spencer, and Trust N Dustan from Ali Al Raihe's leading yard.
"The other one that should give a good account of himself is Kal Barg," Doyle said.
Kal Barg was runner-up to tonight's opponent, Rochdale, in this Dh110,000 race last year. Al Raihe's Rochdale already has a win over course and distance this season so will have the benefit of race fitness on his side.
"I sat on Kal Barg a couple of times - he's working very well and he's a horse with a lot of ability," Doyle said. "He's likely to come on for this run."