Hayley Turner’s Century of Winners | Words and pictures by Sara Waterson

Captaining two UK Champion Jockeys! Fellow Team UK members Frankie Dettori and Seb Sanders take their subordinate roles in good part

At a time of year when most racing fans are preoccupied with the big jumping stars’ chances at top Christmas and New Year meetings, the final week of 2008 was brought brilliantly alive on the all-weather by the climax of Hayley Turner’s attempt to become the first woman to ride 100 winners in Britain within a calendar year.

 

{jathumbnail} By far our most successful lady jockey to date, Hayley is universally popular, as much for her admirable work ethic and her engaging personality, as for her exceptional talent. In 2005 she became only the fourth woman ever to ‘ride out her claim’, so losing her Apprentice status at the end of the season; and that year she was the first woman Champion Apprentice (the title shared with Saleem Golam). That was not her first ‘First ‘either: in the winter of 2004/05 she accepted an invitation to work in Dubai for Godolphin, and was the first female ever to ride in their famous royal blue silks for the powerful yard of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum. In 2006 she was the first woman to ride in the international Sherger Cup meeting at Ascot, and in 2008 captained the British Team – yet another landmark First for the ladies! – and one she nominated her career high so far, since she also won the Stayers’ race for her team.

Hayley served her 2004/05 Apprenticeship with Michael Bell, who continues to support her. Riding Oat Cuisine at Great Leighs

Following a great season with Hayley riding for an increasing number of yards, come December her indefatigable agent Guy Jewell had been hard at work, urging her to go for this history-making century while finding her rides. Trainers, entering into the spirit of things, enthusiastically offered her some fancied mounts – and quite a few not so fancied! – while the media frenzy grew ever greater, and Hayley buzzed up and down the motorways between the four all-weather tracks.

The final countdown with five winners still required began on Sunday 28th December at Lingfield in Sussex, where Hayley had a winner on Aeroplane and a near-miss 2nd from four rides. The following day the bandwaggon moved on to the new Essex course at Great Leighs, where five rides produced another agonizing 2nd on Gay

In the Winners’ Enclosure: an acceptable 3rd on Oat Cuisine

Kelleway’s Star Strider – and two winners, one of them fittingly Dover Street Art owned by Mayfair art dealer Matt Green who has been another big supporter. Her other winner was 4-year-old outsider Chalice Welcome, much to the delight of his elderly lady owner-breeder, as he’d never won in 24 previous attempts!

Action was resumed the afternoon of the 30th at Lingfield, with two winners to go. Three rides produced a further winner in Newlyn Art for Matt Green; then (to the chagrin of the course which had hoped to host her ‘coronation’) it was a mad dash up to Wolverhampton in the Midlands for the evening meeting, where Hayley had five more rides, only one of those a rank outsider. It was of course on this horse, the oddly-named Mullitovermaurice trained by James Given, that she brought up the century! “It’s brilliant!” said a relieved Hayley “I’m really pleased and glad to have done it tonight so I don’t have to worry about doing it tomorrow!” No doubt so were her proud parents who’d been burning the tarmac to share the moment!

Hayley in the famous colours of Michael Tabor, one of three partners in international Irish-based powerhouse Ballydoyle, racing arm of bloodstock supremos Coolmore, arguably the most powerful outfit in the sport

Amid joy unconfined the whole Weighing Room came out to acclaim the new ‘centurion’, as they did again the following day back at Lingfield, where Mark Usher who’d supported her since her Apprentice days had supplied two of her three rides by way of insurance. The plaudits from colleagues, trainers, and everyone else involved in racing came pouring in – and for the next few days Hayley was caught up in a constant media frenzy. Her immediate response when phoned by At The Races just after she’d achieved the milestone was typically generous to those who’d helped her to overcome the entrenched prejudices against ladies in the saddle.

“When I started as an apprentice at Michael Bell’s it was difficult for him to get me on some of his horses but I’m very grateful to him and everyone else who has helped me along the way,” she told ATR. “Gerard Butler has been very good to me as well and has not been frightened of putting me up on his better horses and I’ve tried to grab the opportunities when I can. It would be nice to be offered a job as a stable jockey, but everything has happened gradually for me and hopefully it will snowball next year. My aim is to ride better quality horses in bigger races and see where it goes from there.”

Leading out runners at Great Leighs on Colleoni in the famous Tabor colours, trainer Gerard Butler beside them

Now 26, Hayley grew up near Southwell Racecourse in Nottinghamshire, the bonus of her mother being a Riding Instructor giving her that early start in the saddle which is such a help in a riding career. She later learned much at the Northern Racing College. She also had the good fortune to be apprenticed to one of the larger Newmarket trainers, Michael Bell, who has continued to support her career since she ‘lost her claim’. But all that good fortune needs to be backed up by relentless hard work and self-discipline.

Trainers were fulsome of their praise for her talents. “She has done nothing but improve” said Bell. “She has got her head down, worked hard and her success is much deserved. She has very good balance and horses run for her. She is tactically aware and she is very effective in a finish. I think it is a fantastic achievement – you shouldn’t

Gerard Butler, trainer of Tabor’s Mount Hadley, briefs Hayley before an evening race in September

underestimate the bridges she has had to cross to get to where she is given the built-in prejudice against female jockeys. And I think it is fantastic for racing, there has been a lot of press coverage – and not just in the trade press – she is a role model.”

Many added similar praise including her long-term supporters in the training ranks, notably Mark Usher and Gay Kelleway, herself the first woman to ride a winner at Royal Ascot; whilst ladies who made their mark in the sport in an even tougher era such as former jockey Alex Greaves and trainer Jenny Pitman were just as much in agreement that Hayley is the ‘full article’ – a complete jockey, as strong in a finish and as tactically astute as any man.

At Lingfield on the final day of the year, Hayley was presented with a bottle of Champagne and a bouquet of flowers from the racecourse and British Horseracing Authority Director of Communications John Ryan, who was quick to realise the PR gift of this historic moment, and implications for other women already in the sport, or thinking of making it their career. Ryan said: “Reaching 100 winners is a fantastic achievement given that Hayley is competing on an equal level with men, which outside equestrianism does not happen in any other sport. She is a wonderful advertisement for racing and we all look forward to her repeating her achievements in 2009. Like her, we also hope that she now gets on some better quality horses, as the more Hayley is at the big events, the better it is for the sport.”

On old stager Bonus, one of the ‘better horses’ Gerard’s always been happy for Hayley to ride

Most accolades have acknowledged even by implication what a mountain Hayley had to climb to reach this landmark. Josh Apiafi, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys’ Association, said: “You wouldn’t have thought five years ago that this could have happened. It is an amazing achievement in this male-dominated sport. I think it proved a point when she got 67% of the votes for the Channel 4 Racing Personality of the Year Award the other day. She is brilliant on the media front.”

Since then Hayley has been invited to become an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, which helps disadvantaged youngsters, where she will play a key role in taking racing’s message into the wider world. Epsom Racecourse has also nominated her the ‘Face of the 2009 Derby Festival’ to help promote our premier Classic – let’s hope some enterprising trainer gives her a ride in the great race!

The first lady Captain of the UK team on Shergar Cup day at Ascot in August, checking out the opposition in the Racing Post. In these colours Hayley rode Gee Dee Nen to victory

The field in the Carvill Shergar Cup Stayers’ trails in behind Hayley and Gee Dee Nen, already long past the winning post

Entering the Ascot Winners’ Enclosure for Team UK on Gee Dee Nen as trainer Mark Tompkins embraces his thrilled co-owner

Centre, in red, Hayley on the podium with some of the most successful and famous jockeys in the world, including to her left Jorge Ricardo and to her right Yutaka Take, also Jamie Spenser far right, and Gerard Mosse with his trophy

Hayley riding Furnace, in the prestigious colours of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, for her former boss Michael Bell (in b’gd in white trousers)

Always professional, Hayley takes the PR aspects of her job very seriously. She’s always in demand to sign autographs

Interviewed by Derek Thompson after winning on Miss Brown To You in November at the meeting sponsored by the Forbury Hotel in Berk

Some jockeys will barely pose with owners after winning, let alone coming 3rd! 2yr old Give Us A Song after coming 3rd for Stan Moore (his third run and first placing), with co-owner John Wells and Mr & Mrs Paul Wells. He’s won since…

Sympathetic hands for young horses: a second ‘educational’ ride on the night for another of Stan’s 2yr olds, Fullback, provides a 2nd placing

Media attention as the countdown to the Century begins: Thommo interviews Hayley (in the famous Green family colours) for ATR on the WR steps at Great Leighs

Chatting with connections before the race is part of the job too: art dealer and Hayley fan Matthew Green in cap

Job done! Hayley on winner Dover Street Art, followed by leading trainer David Elsworth (who trained racing legends Desert Orchid and Persian Punch)

Hayley tells ‘Elsie’ and Matt Green how the race panned out – only two to go now!

It was so nearly a treble – Hayley Turner explains her 2nd to Gaye Kelleway on Bluejain as they watch the re-run on the big screen. Gaye was herself the first lady to win at Royal Ascot, in her riding days

At Lingfield on the final day of the year, Hayley is presented with a bottle of Champagne and a bouquet of flowers by the racecourse and British Horseracing Authority Director of Communications John Ryan

Hayley receiving her magnum of champagne from John Ryan on 31 December, the day after her historic century at the Wolverhampton track

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