Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…
SEVENTEEN NERVY DAYS after Lunar Eclipse had become the 999th winner of her record-breaking career, on November 4 at Newmarket for Hayley Turner, she scored her 1000th, booting home 9/4 favourite, Tradesman at Chelmsford.
Relieved, but perhaps realistic, 40 year old Hayley was becoming the first European female rider to reach such a milestone, and she then predicted: ‘Although it’s taken me twenty years to do it, it will probably take the girls behind me half the time.’
It took a lot to impress Claude Duval when he was the chief racing writer for The Sun, but in December, 2008, the great man had paid tribute to the new jockey on the scene, who had thus far ridden 89 winners during the calendar year – and was on course to reach a century for the twelve-month.
Declared Claude, ‘Her stylish displays make her indistinguishable from the boys.’
Of course, he was writing about Hayley Turner, who duly completed her century of winners that season when Mullitovermaurice won at Wolverhampton on December 30 – in front of a larger than usual crowd, there to witness a piece of racing history as she became the first of her sex to achieve the feat.
Confirming the ultra competitive nature of Hayley’s character, she was found guilty of careless riding on that historic, ton-up winner.
Her ton-up success did not over-surprise Hayley herself, who noted at the time, ‘The only difference between me and the boys is that I’ve got a different changing room’.
As early as August 2004 trainer Alan King had declared her to be ‘as strong and invigorating as a double brandy.’
Hayley acquired her riding gene from her mother,Kate, a riding instructor and a Mum of three girls – who she encouraged to ride from their earliest active days, ‘I’ve ridden horses since I was three’ said Hayley.
On her first ride in public, in March, 2000, her mount was fatally injured during the race. Her first winner arrived at Pontefract on Generate in June, 2000. She didn’t get another for over 18 months.
She went off to the States to learn her trade and widen her experience, working at a pre-training centre in South Georgia and spending three months in New Orleans with trainer Tom Amoss.
On returning to the UK, she teamed up with trainer Michael Bell, riding 27 times for his stable in 2003, and in 2005 the Racing Post named her Champion Lady Jockey of the Year, sharing the champion apprentice title with Saleem Golam on 44 turf winners.
During that year few were very surprised when, riding a horse called Wunderbra, commentator Derek Thompson declared; ‘It’s win or bust.’ She did win on the 5/2 shot. To be fair to Thommo, he’d probably have made the same comment had that horse been ridden by a male jockey.
In 2008 Hayley was named as captain of the home Shergar Cup team at Ascot – but even at this stage there was controversy when she was ‘praised’ by Willie Carson, suggesting that ‘she rides well for a girl.’
Bizarrely enough, though, that bastion of equal opportunity, the Guardian, wrote in 2008, after her victory in Ascot’s £90,000 Totesport Cup, ‘It is entirely possible that a form student in 2018 will come upon Saturday’s result while researching 10 year trends and mutter, ‘Well, well, well, Hayley Turner. Whatever happened to her?’
Hayley actually did quit the saddle in 2015, but returned, saying: ‘When I retired I had to work for a living and I didn’t like that!’
Her return has seen her become racing royalty, receiving an OBE in 2016 – and befitting such a title, she has ridden winners for the Queen, becoming confident enough in the company of Her Majesty to joke that she should be paid a Royal retainer – as a result of which, revealed Hayley, ‘She looks at me, and there is this pause……..then she started laughing.’
But nobody, royal or otherwise, now laughs at Hayley’s riding ability, or her undoubted contributions to the history of racing.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.