Can Hollie Doyle win Sports Personality of the Year?

Hollie Doyle rounded off an incredible year with two wins on British Champions Day at Ascot.
Hollie Doyle rounded off an incredible year with two wins on British Champions Day at Ascot.

After seeing her price slashed following a stellar Saturday at Ascot, Joe Tuffin looks at Hollie Doyle’s chances of winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year… 

Whilst most of us have tripped, stumbled and fallen our way through the inconvenient and largely unbearable year that is 2020, Hollie Doyle has thrown herself into the limelight and become the poster woman for a sport which often suffers from a lack of representation in the mainstream media.

A first Group 1 success on Champions Day has seen Doyle shorten into a general price of 25/1 for the coveted award, putting her ahead of the likes of Premier League winner Jordan Henderson, Golf superstar Rory McIlroy and social media sensation Joe Wicks, and she’s the closest that racing has been to the forefront of the prize since 2013 - when A.P. McCoy finished third. 

Indeed, racing has long struggled to make an impact with the wider public, and only on four occasions has a jockey managed to finish in the top three places; with Frankie Dettori doing so in 1996 and McCoy earning recognition on three occasions in 2002, 2010 (winner) and 2013. It generally takes something momentous for the nomination, too, with Dettori placing third on the back of his ‘magnificent seven’ at Ascot, and McCoy winning (admittedly in a landslide) after sealing Grand National glory on Don’t Push It in 2010. 

Doyle doesn’t have the same profile amongst the wider public as a McCoy or a Dettori just yet, meaning she’s unlikely to win the whole thing, but could she feature in the top three? Potentially

Her success as a female athlete in a male dominated sport has a very attractive human element to it, and should she make the shortlist her heavily praised humbleness will attract many an unbiased voter - but hopefully her sporting achievements alone will do most of the talking. Indeed, Doyle’s first top level success on Glen Shiel on Saturday came just days after breaking her own record of setting the highest tally of winners by a female rider in a calendar year, something which has firmly established her as a top-class rider in the weighing room, and broken away the gender stereotypes. 

Whether or not that is enough for her to crack the top three remains to be seen, though, as there are several huge names in contention. The six-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton would tie the great Michael Schumacher’s record of title wins if succeeding this year and is the current 7/4 joint-favourite with footballer Marcus Rashford, who earned plaudits from around the world with his efforts to tackle child poverty. Meanwhile, mental health advocate Tyson Fury is available at 9/2 after regaining the World Heavyweight Boxing title earlier in the year, while the ever-popular Ronnie O’Sullivan (13/2) is high up on the shortlist after becoming World Snooker Champion for the sixth time this year.

It’s incredibly difficult to look past Hamilton and Rashford, but this award regularly sees ‘feel good’ stories perform well - something shown by the para-athlete Jonnie Peacock beating boxer Anthony Joshua to third place as a 66/1 shot in 2017, after sealing gold at the World Para Athletics Championships. The key to success can be resonating with the public, and there is a very real chance she will win the voters over as she has the racing world. 

Even if she doesn’t quite crack the prize this year, her achievements mean the sport should be allocated more than the usual 10 seconds of B-roll coverage, which is a victory on its own.

2021 Cheltenham Festival
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