Jockey Sophie Doyle is hoping her first visit to the Spa is one that comes with a Grade 1 victory.
Doyle, 33, has ridden at some of the world's most prestigious racetracks including, Churchill Downs, Ascot, Newmarket and Nad al Sheba. But on Saturday, she will break her Saratoga maiden when she pilots Street Band in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama presented by NYRA Bets.
The Cambridge, England native began riding in her native country before venturing to Dubai for two winters and, subsequently, moved to the United States. During her current tenure in North America, she has ridden at Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Santa Anita and currently is based at Arlington Park in Chicago, but said she has always watched the racing at Saratoga from afar and is excited to finally be a part of a big race at the prestigious racetrack.
"It's absolutely brilliant to be on the big stage at Saratoga. I've watched racing there for many, many years so I'm delighted that I have the chance to ride there in a Grade 1," Doyle said. "[To win] would be pretty spectacular and I've been fortunate that I was able to race out in Dubai at the historic Nad al Sheba. That was a dream come true and it's similar to Saratoga. After watching races there for so many years and watching Rosie Napravnik do so well, it's nice to be there myself and it would be a tremendous day with a big race. It would be great for my career and I'm thankful for everyone who's gotten me there."
Street Band is owned by trainer Larry Jones in partnership with wife Cindy as well as Ray Francis, Medallion Racing and MyRacehorse Stable and has already provided one "first" for Doyle when giving the rider her first mount in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, where she finished sixth. The daughter of Istan rebounded next out with an impressive victory in the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks last month, garnering an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.
Street Band began her year with an upset win in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March and was a narrow allowance winner in her second start going two turns.
Doyle has piloted Street Band in her last seven starts and said that the filly has developed well over the year.
"She's developed really nicely," said Doyle. "It's quite a nice relationship that I've developed from the Fair Grounds when she was starting over five-and-a-half. We stepped her up to a mile [and 70 yards] and she ran third again.
"She came back and won the allowance and really showed her guts the day she dug in. She's just kept on progressing," continued Doyle. "In the Fair Grounds Oaks she settled down and did everything right and won it in good fashion. As we carried on throughout the year, the Kentucky Oaks was obviously very tough. We had a rough trip ended up on the outside, but she still ran her race and I was really happy with her."
Doyle worked Street Band on Monday morning, where she went five furlongs in 59.80 over the main track at Churchill Downs.
"They decided to freshen her up and go for the Indiana Oaks and she bounced back to good form, and her works since then have been really well done," Doyle said. "Her work on Monday morning is exactly what we wanted to see with her. Galloped out in really good fashion. Stretching out to a mile and a quarter it was exactly what you want to see."