‘No regrets’ as Turner bows out

Hayley Turner and Margot Did celebrate after their win in the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes during the Ebor Festival 2011 at York Racecourse. (Picture: John Giles/PA Wire)
Hayley Turner and Margot Did celebrate after their win in the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes during the Ebor Festival 2011 at York Racecourse. (Picture: John Giles/PA Wire)
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HAYLEY TURNER insists that she will have “no regrets” when she hangs up her saddle at Doncaster in two months time following a roller-coaster career that saw her become Britain’s most successful female Flat jockey.

A graduate of the Northern Racing College, which is just a short canter from the winning post on Town Moor, many of the 32-year-old’s highs and lows have invariably taken place on Yorkshire’s racetracks – her very first career victory came at Pontefract in June 2000 aboard Generate.

She then confirmed her undoubted class when she was crowned joint champion apprentice with Saleem Golan at Doncaster in November 2005 – both riders had finished on the 44-winner mark – but it was Turner who went on to prosper while her rival disappeared into racing obscurity.

After Thirsk-based Alex Greaves dead-heated for the 1997 Nunthorpe Stakes at York, Turner became the first female rider to record outright victories at the highest level when Dream Ahead’s victory in the 2011 July Cup at Newmarket was quickly followed by a Nunthorpe of her own courtesy of Margot Did.

However, Turner struggled to regain her confidence after a shattering fall from Seal Of Approval at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting in 2013 which left her with serious back and pelvic injuries. She is now set to become a media pundit.

“I’ve done an awful lot over the last the last 15 years and I just feel ready to get my teeth stuck into something new,” said Turner yesterday. “I think I first started to think about it at the Derby meeting in June.

“I’ve loved every minute and I feel like it is the right time. I’ve made the decision myself. I’m particularly pleased with how this season has gone. Last season was a steady one after my injury, it took longer to get going, but this year I feel back to my best and ready to leave on a high.

“Seal Of Approval, the horse I fell off in 2013, went and won a Group One at Ascot on Champions Day for George Baker when I was sat at home, feeling frustrated. I cried and had to ring my mum. It’s tough, but it happens to jockeys. I’ve no regrets at all. I’ve had a lot of injuries and I’ve never been fazed by them but this injury knocked my confidence, I was pulling out of gaps that I wouldn’t have done and was feeling nervous. At the time I wouldn’t have admitted it, but now I know I’m riding better.

“Saying I’m frustrated by lack of opportunities is a bit unfair. I’m on 40 winners already, if I rode until the end of the year I’d have over 50 which is good. Being a jockey isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s difficult to balance work and life.

“I’m hoping people will still use me until the end of the season, and I’m really looking forward to the last couple of months. Hopefully the last ride will be at Doncaster on the last day of the season.”

Turner has posted plenty of notable successes throughout a career that has yielded more than 750 winners, including a weekend victory in Japan, but one of her biggest thrills was recently winning the Shergar Cup at Ascot as part of the Girls team.

“It was great to win the Shergar Cup this year after coming so close the year before. Sammy Jo Bell is riding so well and Emma-Jayne [Wilson] is such a positive person, it rubs off on you,” she added.

Those paying tribute to Turner included Michael Bell who trained the aforementioned Margot Did and the classy I’m A Dreamer whom the jockey partnered to a famous victory in the prestigious Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park, Chicago, in 2012.

He said: “She was with us a long time and has certainly been an ambassador for the sport. She was – and still is, as she isn’t retiring just yet – an excellent work rider and her input on the gallops has been as important as on the racecourse.

“She rode lots of good winners for us, but I thought her ride on I’m A Dreamer in particular was out of the top drawer, and on a global stage, too – I can’t think of anyone that could have ridden the horse better. I wouldn’t call her a path-finder as such, but she certainly led the way and that ride on I’m A Dreamer really stood out.”

Another potential Ladbrokes St Leger challenger has fallen by the wayside after Sumbal was ruled out of the Doncaster Classic on Saturday week.

Trained in France by Francis Graffard for Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing operation, the Danehill Dancer colt looked a likely contender after winning his first three races and finishing a close-up fifth in the French Derby.

But stepped up to a mile and a half for the first time in the Grand Prix de Deauville on Sunday, he trailed home a disappointing sixth of seven.

Aidan O’Brien has nominated dual Guineas hero Gleneagles for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in which he could take on American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

The high-class three-year-old is still in line to make an appearance in the Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday week, providing the ground is suitable, after missing last month’s Juddmonte International at York because of soft conditions on the Knavesmire.

Should he not appear at Leopardstown, Gleneagles will have the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day as a back-up on October 17.

Sovereign Debt has done most of his racing in Ireland this season but could make a first appearance on a British racecourse since the spring at Haydock on Saturday.

Trained at Thirsk by Dandy Nicholls, the six-year-old’s last four runs have all been across the water, including a Listed victory in the Celebration Stakes at the Curragh in June.

He was last seen finishing third in the Minstrel Stakes and could return to action in the Group Three betfred.com Superior Mile on Merseyside.