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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

An Interview with Jockey Hayley Turner

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Hayley Turner, 37, is an inspirational jockey for her talent and for riding amongst the men as an equal. Her accolades and achievements stand out. Even at the start, she showed determination; her first winner was at Pontefract in June 2000 on Generate and she was joint champion apprentice five years later with forty-four winners that season. She was the first woman to ride a hundred UK Flat victories during a calendar year when winning on Mullitovermaurice at Wolverhampton on 30th December 2008 and in September of the same year, her 95th winner was also the winner she rode out her claim on, becoming only the fourth woman to do so since Alex Greaves in 1991. This aided her winning in 2008 Channel 4’s Racing Personality award. Hayley rode her first Group 1 winner in 2011 on Dream Ahead in the July Cup at Newmarket, and the Nunthorpe at York’s Ebor meeting a month later on Margot Did. In 2012, she became the first female to ride on the night of the Dubai World Cup at Meydan and only the second ever female jockey to ride in the Epsom Derby. She won the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington, USA in 2012 on I’m A Dreamer.

Hayley retired from race-riding between August 2015-18 when she contributed to the coverage on ITV Racing and rode competitively only by invitation. Since returning, she has won at Royal Ascot two years in a row, the first on Thanks Be in the Sandringham Stakes in 2019, which was the first win there by a lady jockey since 1987. This year, Onassis won the same race but in quiet, crowdless scenes during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, it was still a Royal Ascot winner.

Hayley was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours List for services to horseracing. She lives near Newmarket and is in a relationship with jump jockey Nick Schofield.

Photo Credit: Great British Racing

Did you have a horsey childhood?

My mother was a freelance riding instructor so I used to follow her around in the hope that I’d get a ride on one of naughty ponies the other children didn’t want to ride.

Are there any ponies you vividly remember?

When I was fourteen, I got my first pony – his name is Wallace and mum still has him in the field next to her house. I once fell off him seven times in one hour but he taught me how to ride!

How did you get into racing?

When I left school, I wasn’t interested in doing my A-Levels. My parents told me to do something I enjoyed. A mate of mine, Adam Pogson, told me he was going to the Northern Racing School so I followed him there with zero knowledge about horseracing.

When you were younger, who influenced you to become a jockey?

No one in racing as I did not follow the sport until I left school. My mum, dad and Nanna all encouraged me, albeit through gritted teeth.

What is your favourite aspect of racing?

Winning. The ups and downs make it tough for anyone working in racing to get confident or cocky so when there is success it means so much. And watching Nick fall off (joke)!

Have times changed for female jockeys since you started out?

It has changed massively in recent years, and this has taken awhile. I am the oldest female in the weighing room by at least ten years so I have seen lots come and go. The help they are getting now from the IJF has improved their fitness and the mindset of owners has changed, so using a female is very normal.

What was it like to win at Royal Ascot?

AMAZING! I have been so close a few times so finally getting a winner was a dream. It’s the meeting every jockey wants to win at. Also, it was nice to take the bragging rights off Gay Kelleway.

What was the best advice you were given?

Do something you enjoy and if you stop enjoying that, do something else.

What is the best advice you can give to anyone?

You can only do your best.

If there is any Flat horse you could have ridden, then which one?

Frankel – I feel privileged to have been about in his era.

What has been your most favourite day’s racing?

Winning the July Cup at Newmarket (July Course) – it was my first Grade 1 winner and it’s so close to home, I got time to celebrate. It still feels like a dream.

What is your favourite racecourse in the UK?

Ascot – so many good memories, including a Victoria Cup, two Royal Ascot wins and two Shergar Cup wins.

Photo Credit: Four Footed Photos

Internationally, where have you most enjoyed riding and why?

When winning the Flower Bowl, a Group 1 in Arlington, USA, on I’m A Dreamer. It was great to get on the big stage at such a high-profile meeting so far from home.

Which is your favourite race meeting?

The Shergar Cup at Ascot – it’s an international team event, which is great fun. I love to have a day’s racing with ‘something a bit different’. The Ascot Team made it such fun for a non-racing audience, which is important to our industry. Also, my family come alone, including my Nanna – they have the best day and I always pray I get invited back the following year.

Would you consider riding over jumps?!

NO – I’m not that stupid (despite what people say)!

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Meribel in France – I love skiing, even though I am very average at it. My sister’s partner has a ski school over there so it’s always a fun family trip.

What is your favourite meal?

Pork Sunday roast with crackling (gluten-free as I have coeliac disease) and pretty much anything Nick doesn’t cook!

Victorious in the Shergar Cup in 2015

Photo Credit: Great British Racing

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