Under Starters Orders: Hayley Turner

Features | 24th September 2021

Find out about Hayley Turner's career highlights, interests and the records she's set.

Name: Hayley Turner

Born: 3 January 1983

Career highlight: Winning the July Cup on Dream Ahead in 2011

Interesting fact: Hayley is a big snooker fan and often goes to watch tournaments

Hayley Turner’s career has been chock full of firsts. Hayley is the most successful British woman rider in history and she’s recently hit the landmark of 900 winners.

Hayley Turner 900 winners

That bumper haul of winners has included some of the most important milestones for women riders. The 38‐year‐old was the first female jockey to win the apprentice title when sharing the honour with Saleem Golam, the first to ride a winner in the Queen’s colours and the first to ride 100 winners in a year.

Her July Cup win on Dream Ahead in 2011 made her the first female to win a Group 1 race outright – then she added a second six weeks later when Margot Did sprung a surprise in the Nunthorpe. The highs have been towering. Until Hayley came along, some of the feats she has achieved were almost unthinkable for a budding young female rider.

Hayley Turner's Group 1 winners
Hayley Turner's Group 1 winners. Dream Ahead (left) and Margot Did (right)

It’s been a journey of great success but not without some bumps in the road.

It all started when she was taught to ride at an early age by her riding instructor mum, Kate. Despite growing up just a few miles from Nottingham racecourse, the sport of kings wasn’t really on the youngster’s list of career aspirations until a chance conversation with schoolmate Adam Pogson.

The aspiring jump jockey, whose father was a trainer, mentioned he was heading to the Northern Racing College. It piqued an interest in Hayley and she was soon completing a taster course before enrolling at the Doncaster‐based college.

Her first ride came in 2000 at Southwell, not too far from where she grew up. A first winner arrived a couple of months later when Generate carried Hayley home at Pontefract

Gradually, her talents were starting to shine through. With the backing of her boss, Michael Bell, she booted home 44 winners in the summer season of 2005 to tie for the apprentice jockeys’ title.

In that rare tussle with Saleem Golam, now a barber, Hayley also became only the fourth female jockey to ride out her weight claim, following Alex Greaves, Emma O’Gorman and Lisa Jones.

Having ridden exactly 100 winners in 2008, the quality of rides she was picking up was increasing but her rise through the ranks.

Hayley Turner chasing down her 100th winner in 2008
Hayley Turner chasing down her 100th winner in 2008

Unfortunately, a bad fall on the gallops as the 2009 turf season approached left her with head injuries and halted her progress momentarily.

While on the sidelines she appeared on Channel 4 Racing as a guest pundit. It was an opportunity that was to serve her well in the future but winning races remained her only focus.

With her career back in top gear, it was a well‐named sprinter that was to propel Hayley to even greater heights. Dream Ahead had been the joint‐rated juvenile with Frankel the previous season when William Buick was the only jockey to ride the David Simock‐trained star.

With Buick required to ride at York, Hayley picked up the spare ride in Newmarket’s July Cup and the pair blasted home to defeat Bated Breath

It was the first Group 1 for a woman rider since Alex Greaves had dead‐hated for the Nunthorpe Stakes on Ya Malak 14 years earlier.

Hayley had barely come down from cloud nine six weeks later when Margot Did, trained by her old boss Michael Bell, landed York’s great Group 1 dash, the Nunthorpe.

Margot Did and Hayley Turner after winning The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes
Margot Did and Hayley Turner after winning The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes

Hayley Turner was racing’s golden girl, loved by racing fans, the media and, most importantly, the many owners and trainers she rode for. The world appeared to be at her feet but riding highly‐strung animals at high speeds is a precarious occupation and injury was to blight her progress.

A broken ankle and three cracked vertebrae sustained in falls more than two months apart in 2013 was followed 12 months later by a seasonal tally of winners down on what the racing public had come to expect.

It was still a huge shock when Hayley announced, at the end of the 2015 season, that she was retiring at the age of 32. The workload of driving more than 50,000 miles a year on the congested roads of Britain taken its toll.

Following her retirement she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). She was becoming a hit in the media working for At The Races and ITV Racing but the fire for race‐riding still burned.

Organisers of the Shergar Cup, well aware of her love for the Ascot team event, tempted her back into the saddle the following year.

The full return was complete, after a successful stint in France, a return to Britain’s racecourses followed, refreshed and enjoying racing again. The mad sports fan – she is a passionate follower of boxing, snooker, darts and Notts County – has never looked back.

Thanks Be gave handed her first Royal Ascot winner in the Sandringham Handicap two years ago. She retained that trophy when Onassis, also trained by Charlie Fellowes, landed the same race 12 months later.

In 2021, Hayley won her favourite event in the racing calendar, the Shergar Cup, for the fourth time. Over her Shergar Cup career, she’s claimed the Silver Saddle award on two occasions (2018 and 2019).

Hayley Turner has been a trailblazer and a pioneer in the sport. Today, there’s many woman riders who are achieving great things at the top of the sport.