The Hayley Factor – Turf Talk: 18 November 2019
The Hayley Factor – The Hows and the Whys and the Way Forward
WHEN Hayley Turner rode the first of her two winners at Turffontein on Saturday, I thought: Sign her up!
Actually Kenilworth wasn’t empty. The car park proved that. But a function – a worthy one and good luck to all concerned – corrals people in a single space for most of the day, with only rare excursions to within sniffing distance of a horse, or to exclaim – as the lady cutting my hair in Surrey last week said (about taking her Dad to nearby Epsom for his birthday and watching on the rail) “Blimey, I never knew they went so fast!”.
The Hayley Turner factor has two very clear facets. Some indulgent readers may recognise my thoughts on using jockeys as Poster Boys or Girls to popularise racing across the nation.
The Japanese did it with Boys a generation ago to colossal effect. In the modern world it has to be Boys and Girls or Men and Women and – due to the other Hayley Factor – justifiably so.
I can do the first name thing up to a point because we used to put her up when still an apprentice and sometimes when available thereafter. Much the same as… years before …I used to drive a very young rider to races with our then newly licensed trainer. That trainer Chris Wall had been First Assistant to Luca Cumani where he was “minder” to a young immigrant jockey with an overdose of talent. His name? L. Dettori claiming perhaps one of the best 7s in history and otherwise asleep in the back of the car.
To cease to be an apprentice, either the young rider becomes less young and age dictates, or he or she “rides out his/her claim”. In UK, on the Flat, that means riding 95 winners.
Hayley Turner was not the first female to ride out her claim. That mantle belongs to Alex Greaves who was also the first female to ride a Group 1 winner when dead-heating in the Nunthorpe. Hayley T. has ridden Group/Grade 1 winners (plural) in UK and USA and became the first female to ride 100 winners in a season.
She is without question a reason for a whopping increase in the number of young women becoming apprentice jockeys resulting today in the excellent Hollie Doyle, Josephine Gordon, Nicola Currie, Georgia Cox, Sami Jo Bell and others, while a whole bunch of brilliant lady jump jockeys are regarded on equal terms with all jockeys (and excelled at Cheltenham this year) after the trail-blazing of Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry.
As well as that 100 winners season (2008), Hayley Turner, O.B.E., has had seasons of 92 (2012), 88 (2011 curtailed due to injury) and 60 twice in 2013 and in 2009 when she missed quite a few months due to very nasty injury. Clearly she can “come back” after getting hurt.
She retired in 2015 (44 winners) and took to TV punditry, later joining the newly formed ITV broadcast team. Some twerps on social media took against her voice and Nottinghamshire accent which can’t have been a comfortable experience for her.
The hypocrisy is evident to any fair-minded regular viewer, considering the group of Irish ex-jockeys who use the same set of microphones with tortured vowels and sometimes vowels you don’t actually hear, but they are there because they were world-class or top of the world. Hayley was there because she was a pioneer, a roaring success and because she had bang up to date knowledge.
The esteem for her was never more evident than when she won at Royal Ascot this year *** – the first female to do so since Gay Kelleway 32 years before. The ITV team which she had left “lost it” when she arrived to be interviewed, going bonkers with delight.
That was a typical racing moment. Not unique to racing, of course, but racing does that. Another comparable but different event was when Clare Balding, then queen of Channel 4 racing broadcasts walked to interview her younger brother, trainer Andrew, in the Oaks Winner’s Circle at Epsom in 2003. And couldn’t speak.
Having returned to riding, things have been “in and out” for Hayley Turner with 22 winners in the 2019 Championship Season (4th May to 19th October in sometimes barmy Britain) while the brilliant Hollie Doyle, a winner for us at Ascot from a seemingly impossible position, rode 63. But Ms Turner has an astonishing knack of high performance in these one-off contests such as at Turffontein and in the Shergar Cup with which she is synonymous as highly successful Captain of the World Women’s Team, herself winning the Silver Saddle twice running including this year against a large selection of the world’s best of the best men and women.
Now in her mid 30s, she is a ready-made ambassador. The cap fits. Dame Kelly Holmes, double Olympic Gold and much more is a standout, plus Dame Jess Ennis-Hill triple World Champ plus Olympic and European Golds, Denise Lewis OBE “only” one Olympic Gold, Paula Radcliffe MBE world marathon record holder for 16 years.
Arsenal and England’s Alex(andra) Scott MBE and now surely Nicola Adams also OBE, hugely popular double Olympic Gold and World Professional boxing champion, retiring to save her sight – all inspire and support. The “gongs” are archaic in a sense, but the recipients seem to go on giving.
It seems a bit questionable to be talking, here and now, about inspiring in South Africa (a) more young people to become apprentice jockeys and specifically (b) female young people whether as riders, the backbone the workforce in training, or as potential fans.
Foals born, mares being covered and numbers of buyers are dwindling. But it is not too late to stop fiddling while Rome burns (SAEHP being an honourable, expert and hard working non-fiddling exception but there is so much more to fix).
***Here is the rerun of Hayley’s Royal Ascot brilliant win this year on THANKS BE, out of the weights thus 4 pounds disadvantaged in the 27 runner Sandringham Stakes. Enjoy the RacingTV commentary and comments on the highly visible red cap/white spots starting from way back. – tt.