The landmark of 100 winners in a year was reached in typical Hayley Turner style at Wolverhampton last night with tactical skill and a huge determination not to be beaten. In persuading the modestly talented Mullitovermaurice home first by a fast-diminishing neck from his nearest pursuer, the 25-year-old became the first woman in Britain to ride a century of winners in a year.
Turner, careful as ever to be in the right place, had kept her mount in the leading rank, hugging the rail and not giving an inch. As the pack descended in the straight and Mullitovermaurice veered across his challengers, it took quick thinking and nerve to straighten him with a couple of cracks of the whip and send him careering for the winning post. The stewards, however, rightly unmoved by the occasion, issued her with a two-day ban for careless riding.
Having notched a Monday double at Great Leighs, Turner set up the century with a perfectly executed win at Lingfield's afternoon meeting on the well backed Newlyn Art. Ensuring the gamble did not go astray. she was never worse than second and sent the favourite for home on the final bend.
"Tactically, she's rarely in the wrong place," her main employer, the Derby-winning trainer Michael Bell, said earlier in the year. "Rarely do you want to throw a brick at the television." It may not seem like much of a compliment, but it is the sort of plaudit with which punters as well as trainers are likely to content themselves. Certainly, she has earnt the respect of both camps.
"From day one she was thoroughly dedicated and very determined," Bell added yesterday. "She had tunnel vision on being a success. She's given her all and her success is richly deserved."
"When I started as an apprentice at Michael Bell's it was difficult for him to get me on some of his horses," Turner said after last night's win, "but I'm very grateful to him and everyone else who has helped me along the way.
"It would be nice [to be offered a job as a stable jockey] but everything has happened gradually for me and hopefully it will snowball next year. My aim is to ride better quality horses in bigger races and see where it goes."
Four winners in two days at three different all-weather tracks for three different trainers sums up the essence of Turner's 2008, which has been embroidered with higher-profile successes at the major tracks for some of the country's most important owners including Hamdan Al Maktoum. It was fitting, though that the milestone was reached at one of the bread and butter courses that are the staple of her success. Even on a freezing night at Wolverhampton the regulars around the winner's enclosure managed a hearty cheer as she returned on Mullitovermaurice.
The daughter of a riding instructor form Southwell, Nottinghamshire, the local track remains one of her favourite courses and her following there includes her grandmother with nourishing snacks for the jockey to take back with her to her Newmarket base.
Three years ago Turner shared the apprentice championship with Saleem Golam and became the fourth woman in Britain to "ride out" her apprentices' allowance by dint of winners rather than for it to expire because of age. The question now is whether riding 100 winners will prove a true breakthrough for Turner and the other women in the weighing room. Certainly, reaching the heights of America's Julie Krone, still the benchmark with over 3,500 career wins including a Classic victory, remains a distant prospect. But she is already quoted at 6-4 by Coral to repeat the century in 2009 and the odds about her consolidating a place among the leading dozen riders in Britain would not be astronomical.