Hayley Turner to ride in France in bid to exploit weight allowance
The only French she knows is 'je ne comprends pas' – but Britain's most successful female jockey Hayley Turner is to resurrect her career full-time in France this winter to take advantage of the weight allowance for female riders.
Turner, 34, the first female to ride a Group 1 winner outright in Britain, retired from the saddle in 2015 to move into broadcasting, working as a pundit for ITV and At The Races.
But she has continued to hold her jockey's licence, riding at the Shergar Cup last year, and a return to action to partner two winners for former boss Michael Bell fuelled speculation she would race-ride more regularly.
And now Turner has revealed that France's introduction of a 2kg (4.4lb) weight allowance this year to increase opportunities for female jockeys was too good an opportunity to miss.
"I've had it in the back of my mind for a while," she said on Saturday. "I spoke to Michael Bell and James Fanshawe about it, who I ride out for, and they thought it was a good idea.
"That's why I started having a few rides again. I just wanted to make sure ITV were happy with it before I made it official."
Turner hopes to link up with Chantilly trainer Francis Graffard, for whom she has ridden out. She has enlisted an agent, Herve Naggar, and plans to take more rides in Britain before relocating across the Channel from the end of the turf season.
"Herve Naggar looks after all the top boys and has no light jockeys or girls on his books but was happy to take me on," she said. "I think he'll organise a few for me to ride and I can come and go after Champions Day, then I'll try to base myself more there.
"I've nothing to lose by going there. I'm enjoying riding still, but I can't just rock up over there having not ridden for such a long time. I do most Saturdays for ITV but hopefully on the days I'm not involved in I can ride as well as during the week.
"I could stay here and ride for the winter but have done that for 15 years. I don't have the ambition to do that. The prize-money is not that good and there's a lot of travelling; it just doesn't appeal, whereas this does."
France-Galop's decision to introduce an allowance in all races below Class 1 received a mixed response in Britain, including from champion apprentice Josephine Gordon, who said she was "a little offended by it".
Turner said: "It's a no-brainer really because I'll be claiming 2kg off jockeys who haven't ridden as many winners as me. A lot of girls are turning their noses up at it through pride almost. I've already done it without that, so it doesn't really make any difference to me.
"Personally I don't think it was needed, but if someone offered you a £20 note you'd take it. That's what I'm doing."
She added: "I've no set plans. I would like to go to Cagnes-sur-Mer for January but I don't know whether my path will take me that way.
"I'm looking forward to the new people and learning a new language, something different. My French is absolutely awful. I know 'je ne comprends pas', which means I don't understand!
"I'm starting a new chapter and this seems an appropriate thing to do. The rides for the girls have increased, as have the number of winners. It seems to be working."
Of the link-up with Turner, who partnered Sir Titan to finish second at Goodwood on Saturday, Graffard said: "I already knew Hayley a little and we talked about it. She's very motivated to take out her licence again and to come and ride in France. She started off by asking if she could come and ride out in the mornings and I was delighted to hear she'd be in France.
"My hope is that we can form a good collaboration in the mornings, as well as in the afternoons on the racetrack. I'm not sure I'll be taking horses down to Cagnes over the winter but I'll have plenty for the all-weather meetings at Chantilly and Deauville."
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