Hayley Turner becomes first female to ride Royal Ascot winner in 32 years

Marcus Armytage
The Telegraph
Hayley Turner rode 33-1 shot Thanks Be to victory in the Sandringham Stakes - PA
Hayley Turner rode 33-1 shot Thanks Be to victory in the Sandringham Stakes - PA

It was always going to take something special to knock Frankie Dettori out of the headlines and Hayley Turner managed it on Friday when she rode the 33-1 shot Thanks Be to victory in the Sandringham Stakes – denying the Queen’s Magnetic Charm by a neck – to become the first female jockey to ride a winner at the meeting for 32 years.

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Turner, 36, has been at the forefront of the female jockey revolution on the Flat. In 2008, she was the first to ride 100 winners in a year and was the first to win two Group One races.

Fed up of the travelling her job involves, she retired in 2016 but was tempted back at the start of last year when France announced that female jockeys there would receive a weight allowance from their male counterparts. Although now based back in Newmarket, she seems to be enjoying a much better work-life balance in her second career.

Gay Kelleway had broken Royal Ascot’s glass ceiling in 1987 when she won the Queen Alexandra on Sprowston Boy. “Fair play to Gay,” said an ecstatic Turner, “she had the bragging rights for a long time but I can take them off her now.”

Talking about the race, she added: “You are always hopeful. Charlie Fellowes [the trainer] and the jockey who rides Thanks Be every day at home were confident, but you can only be so confident on a 33-1 shot. I was going to persevere and, if not this year, I would have been back again next year.”

Riding a winner at Royal Ascot, however, topped any previous achievement as far as she was concerned. “Royal Ascot is a different class,” she explained.

“I have ridden all over the world but there is no buzz like this. It’s unique, there is so much history – just to be a part of that. I feel bad for Her Majesty, but I am sure she will understand.

“The whole girl thing [in racing] is going to get better and better. In 10 years it will be so common there will be no media attention when one wins. Hollie Doyle and Josephine Gordon all wanted someone, me or them, to have a winner this week and both rode over to congratulate me at the end of the race. Ascot is hard but it is hard for everyone, not just the girls.”

There was, however, a sting in the tail when she received a nine-day ban and was fined £1,600 for administering 11 strokes of the whip in the last furlong.

Dettori is steaming his way to his first Royal Ascot jockeys’ title, amazingly, since 2004 and took his tally to seven on Advertise [Ryan Moore has five winners] when the powerful colt ran out an impressive length-and-a-quarter winner of the Commonwealth Cup.

Advertise ran so dismally in the 2,000 Guineas that trainer Martyn Meade, who moved to historic Manton from Newmarket at the start of 2018, was unable to determine whether he actually stayed a mile or not.

<span>Frankie Dettori looks set for his first Royal Ascot jockeys’ title</span> <span>Credit: pa </span>
Frankie Dettori looks set for his first Royal Ascot jockeys’ title Credit: pa

But, after regrouping, Meade decided they would go for Friday’s race over six furlongs, a distance they knew he was good at, and stuck some blinkers on to “jazz him up.”

“It shows we are back,” said Meade. “It has been a difficult year, the horses were very flat to start with and Advertise was a good example in the Guineas. It’s huge elation – to win a Group One at Royal Ascot – it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Japan further boosted the Derby form when he won the Edward VII Stakes by 4½ lengths from Bangkok and may well emerge as the horse to take out of the week. 

His victory looked like it might open the floodgates to a big day for Aidan O’Brien and Moore. However, Ten Sovereigns did not look to have the gears in the Commonwealth, while dual-Guineas winner Hermosa could finish only second to the impressive 20-1 French raider Watch Me, a first Ascot winner for the in-form Chantilly-based Francis Graffard. A trainer for eight years, he won his first Classic, the Prix de Diane, last Sunday.  

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