Bill Esdaile talks to former jockey Hayley Turner ahead of tomorrow’s Investec Derby and previews the famous race
Widely considered Britain’s most successful female jockey ever, Hayley Turner will attend Epsom Downs this weekend as an ambassador having hung up her riding boots a little over six months ago with over 750 winners to her name.
She didn’t shed any tears when partnering Buonarroti to finish runner-up in last season’s November Handicap at Doncaster on what was so nearly a fairytale final ride.
“I suppose after 15 years of race-riding and spending hour after hour in the car travelling the length of the country, I was relieved it had all come to an end,” recalled Turner.
“Riding had become more of a job than a passion and, when that happens, you know it is the right time to stop.”
In her glittering career, Turner became only the second woman to win a British Group One when she rode Dream Ahead to victory in the July Cup in 2011.
She followed that by becoming the first woman to win two British Group Ones after landing the Nunthorpe on Margot Did later that same year.
In addition to these achievements, she not only became the first female jockey to ride 100 winners in a season, but also only the second ever to ride in the Investec Derby when partnering Cavaleiro back in 2012.
“I suppose now I’m no longer riding I get a better feel for how big a deal riding in the actual Derby is,” said Turner who is now focussing on a new career in the media.
“As a jockey you are so busy in your day-to-day job that all the hype and hysteria passes you by a little.”
As for Derby Day itself, Turner remembers Cavaleiro being a little more on edge than usual in the preliminaries.
“He was a slightly intense and fiery character anyway,” said the 33-year-old.
“I remember making my way down to the start and trying to settle him cantering past all those in top hats and tails.
“Then I left that behind me and headed towards the razzmatazz of the hill with the noise of the fairground mixed with house music. I can still smell those Derby Day barbeques!
“All that disappeared behind me as I hit the relative tranquillity of the start.”
As for riding in the race itself, Turner is adamant that the Derby shouldn’t be treated any differently than a seller over the same distance at the track.
“You have to keep it simple,” is the advice she would give a jockey riding in the race for the first time.
“There is no point overcomplicating things and you should just ride your horse as if it’s just another race.”
However, the Investec Derby isn’t just any old race and Turner is keen on the chances of a couple at decent prices on Saturday.
“I’m very interested to see how Massaat gets on after he ran such a great race in the 2000 Guineas.
“There aren’t many better trials than that and I’m sure the track will suit.”
The other runner that catches her eye is Ed Dunlop’s Red Verdon who has only just been added to the field this week.
“He won nicely at Chester and Haydock. He’s pretty clued up so I can see him going well at a big price.”
Whether either are good enough to take their place in Investec Derby history alongside Hayley Turner herself, only time will tell.