Hayley Turner: will ride at this year’s Shergar Cup
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Tom Kerr 7:15AM 23 JUN 2016
BRITAIN’S most successful female jockey Hayley Turner is to make a surprise one-off return to the saddle in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.
Turner, 33, who this month was awarded an OBE for services to racing, retired at the end of last season but has been coaxed back into the starting gates by the prospect of defending last year’s first-ever victory for the girls team at the annual riders’ competition.
She takes the place of Australian star Michelle Payne, the Melbourne Cup winner who has been ruled out after suffering abdominal injuries in a recent fall.
The three-strong line-up will be completed by Canadian Emma-Jayne Wilson, the team captain, and Cathy Gannon, subject to her being fit following an injury.
They are set to line up against riders from Britain and Ireland, Europe, and the rest of the world on Saturday, August 6.
‘My favourite day’
Turner said: “The Shergar Cup has always been my favourite day of the racing calendar and I wouldn’t have considered coming out of retirement for any other event. It’s a real shame that Michelle Payne is unable to join the team and I wish her a speedy recovery.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and hope myself, Emma-Jayne and Cathy Gannon can recreate the magic of our team’s victory from last year.”
Turner rode professionally from 2000 until 2015, winning 761 races in Britain, where her many achievements included a champion apprentice title in 2005 (shared jointly with Saleem Golam), two Group 1 victories and a century of wins in a calendar year.
These were among a string of female firsts Turner accomplished in a trailblazing career that also featured a top-tier success in America and wins for the Queen.
Turner shocked the sport when announcing her intention to quit late last summer, saying she felt ready for a new challenge and that the work-life balance of riding, which involves many long days spent on the road often chasing solitary rides, was beginning to wear thin.
However, Turner’s involvement in racing remains strong, having continued to ride out in her hometown of Newmarket as well as regularly featuring as a pundit on At The Races.
Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and communications, said: “British racegoers were going to see a new female legend in Michelle Payne and we are very fortunate that, such is Hayley’s passion for the event, they are instead instead going to get a rare and possibly last chance to see her ride competitively under formal rules again.
“It’s incredibly bad luck on Michelle that she suffered such a serious injury. We were very much looking forward to welcoming her to the UK – something that had been planned from the day after her Melbourne Cup victory.”
Bad year for injuries
Payne’s future in the sport remains uncertain after she underwent abdominal surgery following a fall last month, while Gannon faces a fight to be fit for the Shergar Cup, having broken all five toes on her left foot in an accident that has kept her off the track since May.
Gannon missed last year’s competition through injury and was replaced by Sammy Jo Bell, who is herself on the sidelines during what has been an unlucky 2016 for female riders generally.