What a sorry world we live in when someone as obviously lovely as Hayley Turner must tolerate on-line abuse. Indeed so prevalent is the abuse that not only has she come to expect it but it is now a source of humour amongst her family.
Of course I do not know her personally and I dare say in real life she is perhaps not as lovely as I imagine. She may well be deadly accurate with the flying tea-cup. Or she might send fools packing with a cocktail of the good old-fashioned rude and blasphemous. Away from the public eye she may even have a tendency toward airs and graces whilst sipping gin straight from the bottle. But I doubt it.
She has also attracted criticism for returning to the saddle, as if she is setting some sort or precedent, as if no other jockeys have retired and then manoeuvred themselves a U-turn.
Along with George Baker’s recovery from near death, Hayley’s return to the saddle is the best news flat racing has had this season. She is, and I believe this to be true, flat racing’s biggest name after Frankie Dettori and it is only a pity her full-time return to the saddle will be in France this winter and not in competition with Josie Gordon around the artificial surfaces of this country, with the added possibility that a French gigolo might play footsie with her heart.
It must be remembered that racing and female jockeys in particular owe Hayley not only respect but a sense of debt. While the undoubted talents of Cathy Gannon went largely unappreciated, Hayley was the pioneer who opened up the routes to prominence that both the present band of female jockeys and those who will follow in their wake can now navigate with far less prejudice attached to their gender. Because of Hayley’s achievements and personality, Josie Gordon can, if supported, win classics or even become champion jockey and her achievements will propel the sport on to the front covers of magazines and daily newspapers around the world.
As I licensed jockey she is also a great asset to an I.T.V. racing team that continue to provide racing with the best television coverage its history. Standing alongside ex-jockeys she is a link to the racing of seasons past. Visiting racing yards to ride out horses that will run in the big races is something I.T.V. should have Hayley do more often as it gives the viewer an inside view of a racing yard that only the privileged get to see. Indeed allowing the viewer to see jockeys as horseman, as men and women who not only enjoy riding horses but also care about their well-being, can only be of positive benefit in promoting the sport. Now she is settled in front of the cameras Hayley’s humour and knowledge is beginning to surface on a regular basis and slowly but surely she is becoming a safe pair of hands.
What has amused me since her U-turn is the praise she has attracted from trainers who if they had supported her more fully when she was a full-time jockey might have given her optimism to carry on and not pushed her into premature retirement in the first place. Not that Hayley would agree with my criticism as she is the sort of person (too nice) to always see the other persons view. But life’s experiences are all for a reason and now, I suspect, she is far happier with her life-work balance.
For a while I thought she was on the tele but as a jockey she was in the past but along with Gordon, Doyle and many other females, I hope, she is now forging a path that will secure a better future for flat racing.
So saddoes, if you figure in that number, leave the woman alone and allow her natural charm and overload of loveliness be the asset to racing that it truly is.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.