Hayley Turner is a female jockey like none other before. In 2005 she became only the fourth woman ever to ‘ride out her claim’, thereby losing her Apprentice status at the end of the season. In the same year she became the first female Champion Apprentice and is now considered as one of the top ten jockeys in the country.
Pretty impressive for a twenty-eight year old who is known as much for her work ethic and her personality as she is for her talent on the racecourse.
She has become the first female jockey to run one hundred winners in a season, and in 2006 she was the first woman to ride in the international Sherger Cup meeting at Ascot – two years later she captained the British Team.
Turner grew up near Southwell Racecourse in Nottinghamshire and started horseriding early due to her mother being a riding instructor. It was only when she went to a taster session at Doncaster Racing School that she really toyed with the idea of becoming a jockey.
She went on to Northern Racing College and was then lucky enough to be taken on by Michael Bell, who she continues to ride for since losing her claim. Bell has said ‘she has done nothing but improve, and her success is much deserved – she is a role model’.
Many others agree with him – it is her determination, and self-discipline that has got her where she is. She is not just a brilliant female jockey, she is a brilliant jockey, as strong in a finish and as tactically astute as any man. She also has the added advantage of not having the usual weight struggle that most male jockeys have – at five foot two inches and forty- eight kilograms she has no such concerns.
In achieving one hundred winners in a season it has been acknowledged that what Turner has achieved has definitely been her own mountain to climb – while women have been allowed to race against men since 1972 and several have ridden out their claim, none of them have successfully combated the prejudice of the horse riding world to prove themselves over the course of a career.
Indeed, it is speculated that Turner should become the first female flat jockey considered the equal of any of her male peers. Even Josh Apiafi the 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.’
Her success has paved the way for other female jockeys such as Kirsty Milczarek, Kelly Harrison and Cathy Gannon and she continues to inspire others by her role as ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and her pure determination and ambition.