Turner total 'breaks the barriers'

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The Independent Online

After the euphoria of the night before, it was just a routine day at the office for Hayley Turner at Lingfield yesterday: three rides, three losers on one of the all-weather tracks that provide low-grade competition and betting fodder through the winter. And really, she would not have had it any other way. Her commendable feat of riding her 100th winner of 2008 at Wolverhampton on Tuesday would have passed almost without comment but for her being this country's first female rider to reach that particular annual milestone.

And though rightly pleased with her century, the modest 25-year-old from Newmarket remained slightly bemused, almost embarrassed, by the fuss since Mullitovermaurice's historic success, which included a burst of applause from the Lingfield racegoers as she walked into the paddock before her first race yesterday.

Turner, who regards herself professionally as a jockey first and a woman second, is as aware as anyone that she was the last of 11 members of the weighing room to reach the 100 last year. Ryan Moore, Jamie Spencer, Neil Callan, Chris Catlin, Richard Hughes, Jim Crowley, George Baker, Seb Sanders, Dane O'Neill and Tom Queally all got there before her, without anything like the fanfare.

"We all work hard," she said. "You have to work for anything you achieve, male or female. But of course I'm thrilled I managed to do it. I'm just very lucky to have a job I love so much, and I hope I can just keep on doing what I'm doing. And get better at it, which will come with experience and listening to people who are better than me."

Turner has not yet reached the point where any future landmarks – a Group or Royal Ascot winner, say – will pass without comment. Despite her being a thoroughly competent young jockey, regardless of gender, and the facts that Cathy Gannon won at Lingfield yesterday and Nina Carberry took the last race of the year at Punchestown, females remain in a minority in the saddle.

But what was a disadvantage at the start of her career has been nullified by her own talent and determination. "It was difficult at first," she said, "and not helped by me being rubbish. It has all taken time, snowballing only gradually. But I'm delighted that I can now celebrate what some might have thought the impossible only a few years ago."

Turner is quick to thank her back-up team, notably trainer Michael Bell, with whom she served her apprenticeship and an integral part of whose Newmarket stable she still is, and her agent Guy Jewell.

With Bell's support, she shared the 2005 apprentice championship with Saleem Golam. "It's quite hard to say anything bad about her," said Bell yesterday, "she's reliable, dedicated and talented, a combination that will, given ordinary luck, make for success.

"It was hard to persuade owners at first but then she started winning. She rose to every challenge and didn't disappoint people. Racing is the most un-PC place there is, but any innuendo was water off a duck's back for her. She has always had tunnel vision about her career and copes with any situation."

Only three jockeys – Catlin, Crowley and Moore – rode more than Turner's total of 989 mounts last year. "Her work ethic is extraordinary," said Jewell, who also has two of the other centurions, Crowley and Baker, on his books. "She will go anywhere just for one ride without grumbling. And she has overcome sexual prejudice, which I think is as big an achievement as the century."

Turner, 26 on Saturday, is happy enough to have been adopted by Epsom as the face for this year's Derby, but is happiest of all when people do not notice she is a woman among men in a race. "She has broken the barriers," added Bell, "and that is not to be underestimated. People use her because she is a good jockey full point, not a good jockey for a girl."

* All four of today's domestic jump fixtures are subject to morning inspections, with some optimism last night at Cheltenham (8am inspection), where the course has been under cover since Sunday. Saturday's feature card at Sandown, where the situation will be assessed at noon today, is in doubt if the severe overnight frosts continue.