Shergar Cup belongs to Turner as Ladies triumph at Ascot

Hayley Turner is looking forward to taking home the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup for good after leading the Ladies team to victory in the 20th running of Ascot’s annual competition.

Turner is the most successful jockey in the Cup’s history, having claimed eight winners in 13 previous appearances.

She was leading rider at the fixture in both 2018 and 2019 – and with the competition having to be cancelled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, she was delighted to again be leading the team which this year also contained Mickaëlle Michel, from France, and Scottish rider Nicola Currie.

Earlier in the week, Turner made a plea to keep the Shergar Cup for good if she could complete a hat-trick of jockey crowns.

“My dad was telling me if you win the World Cup for three years you get to actually keep it, so I’m thinking if I win it for a third year, surely I get to keep the actual Shergar Cup?” she said.

While riding honours went emphatically to Currie, whose double on the card helped her claim the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle award, Shergar Cup organisers confirmed Turner can keep the team silverware – having racked up 304 Shergar Cup points.

Another trophy will be produced for 2022.

Turner said: “I think I’m going to need a bigger house to put it in! I’m absolutely delighted.

“Well done to Nicola – she has ridden out of her skin today. The Shergar Cup has helped me over the years by projecting my career and hopefully it will be the same for Nicola, because she deserves more quality rides than she is getting.

“Nicola is amazing, and it’s so good for her – I’m delighted. I love the Shergar Cup, it is so much fun.”

The Ladies team, previously known as the Girls, was introduced in 2012 to create a four-way competition along with Europe, Rest of the World and Great Britain and Ireland.

The sides have tweaked slightly in the current pandemic era, with GB and Ireland split and Europe on hold for 2021.

Currie’s two winners on the card were a major contribution to the Ladies Team’s table-topping tally of 69 points.

Jockey Nicola Currie holding the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle Trophy
Jockey Nicola Currie holding the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle Trophy (Steven Paston/PA)

She said: “What a team. In the end they were straightforward rides and straightforward winners. It’s been a fantastic day, and thanks to all the owners and trainers who have helped today.

“All the publicity is great – it’s hard work being a jockey, and any publicity is good publicity.

“It’s great to have two winners on the board. It’s fantastic and it’s just been a great day.”

Team Ireland were second best in the overall competition on 66 points, with Britain third on 64 and Rest of the World last of the four on 53.

While she did not manage to get among the winners, Michel was delighted to take part, saying: “I’ve loved riding today.

“I was close on a second, and it would have been lovely to win a race, but riding at Ascot has been brilliant.”

Michel savouring Shergar Cup opportunity

Mickaëlle Michel is intent on enjoying the occasion and the experience when she achieves her long-held ambition of taking part in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.

Michel is France’s former champion apprentice, a Group Two winner in Italy and the toast of Japan after riding 30 winners there last year – a record tally for an overseas jockey in the second-tier National Association of Racing.

The 26-year-old will be setting foot on a British racecourse for the first time on Saturday when she joins Hayley Turner – the most successful jockey in Shergar Cup history – and Nicola Currie in the Ladies team for the 2021 edition.

Mickaëlle Michel was big in Japan, with 30 winners on the NAR circuit
Mickaëlle Michel was big in Japan, with 30 winners on the NAR circuit (Ascot Racecourse)

Michel has been an avid long-distance spectator – and, she admits, a “jealous” one too – of an annual event she put on her participation wish-list years ago.

She said: “I am really excited to ride in the Shergar Cup. It is a new experience for me – I have never ridden in the UK.

“It’s my first time visiting (any) British racecourse, so I can’t wait.

“It’s crazy for me, because I’m young – and I’ve just been (race-)riding for three and a half years – so I’m very lucky.”

In that short time, Michel has proved herself in France – where her 2018 tally of 72 victories is a national record for a female jockey – and abroad, notably on Walderbe, winning Italy’s Premio Jockey Club at San Siro last October and then finishing runner-up in the Dubai Gold Cup in March.

Nonetheless, a British debut in the rarefied environs of Ascot promises to be another huge step in her burgeoning career.

“I am riding at one of the most famous racecourses with famous jockeys, on Shergar Cup Day – and I know there will be a special atmosphere,” she said.

“I’ve watched the Shergar Cup every year.

“At the beginning of my career, I said to my agent ‘I’m jealous – I want to be there, it’s famous’.

“I’ve been to a lot of championships, but I’m very proud to be coming to the Shergar Cup – and I hope the French people are proud as well.

“So maybe the young girls, like me three years ago, will be saying they want to be there too.”

Michel knows an Ascot victory will boost her profile exponentially and fast-track hopes of becoming an international Group One star – but she is determined to savour the experience too.

She added: “I want to be an international jockey, like Frankie Dettori or Christophe Soumillon.

“I have already ridden in many different countries. The Shergar Cup was a goal for me – and now I will enjoy the day.

Hayley Turner will be Mickaëlle Michel's Shergar Cup captain in the Ladies team at Ascot on Saturday
Hayley Turner will be Mickaëlle Michel’s Shergar Cup captain in the Ladies team at Ascot on Saturday (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Whether I win or not, I really want to enjoy it. I’m sure it will be a fantastic day.”

Michel is confident the Ladies team will acquit themselves well against their British, Irish and Rest of the World opponents.

“I am very happy that Hayley Turner is captain,” she said.

“I know her and have ridden with her before. She knows Ascot and the Shergar Cup very well, so it is a good advantage for the team – and I’m sure we will be a good team together.

“I have had very good experiences across the world and do lots of research to know the horses before the race. I have watched many races in the UK and have ridden a few races with British jockeys.

“I will walk the track in the morning. I spoke to Christophe Soumillon a few days ago, and he has given me some advice about the track.”

She hopes to upgrade to the Japan Racing Association next year, but would also dearly love to find the opportunities she craves in her native country.

Michel acknowledges she, and all female French jockeys in France, are indebted to British record-breaker Hollie Doyle for demonstrating to both them and prospective connections that women can ride the winners of the best races.

“My next goal is to win a Group One – and also, I would also like to pass the JRA exam to become a jockey in Japan next year,” she added.

“I really want to stay in France, because we have very good horses, but I think they are not ready to have female jockeys riding in big races.

“I have worked hard for that change.

“I’m very happy with my career, but I want a chance to ride in Group races – I don’t want to stay (just) a handicap jockey.

“The female jockeys in France love seeing Hollie Doyle win a Group One – because it is great publicity for her, but also every female jockey.

“She shows that she can do it, but also that we can do it!

“It shows you (must) never give up, and I think we are going the right way.”

A successful day at Ascot will, of course, provide new impetus for her and others.

She added: “Every winner can change your career – a small winner or a big one.

“If I can win one race in Ascot, it is famous.

“I know it is rare to come to Ascot, and for a female international jockey even more rare.

“It is therefore a big opportunity to ride at the Shergar Cup – and if I can ride a winner, then that will be a big impact for me.”

French star Mickaëlle Michel booked for British bow at Shergar Cup

Mickaëlle Michel will make her Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup debut at Ascot next month after being confirmed as part of the Ladies Team.

The globetrotting French jockey was the leading female rider in her homeland in 2018 and has since enjoyed record-breaking success around the world, most notably in Japan.

The 26-year-old competed in the World All-Star Jockeys Championship in Sapporo in 2019, where she rode one winner and finished third overall, while last autumn she claimed her biggest career success in Europe aboard Walderbe in the Group Two Premio Jockey Club in Italy.

Michel also partnered the German-trained stayer to be second in the Dubai Gold Cup in March and is looking forward to making her British debut at Ascot alongside Hayley Turner, who it was recently announced will also be in the Ladies Team.

“I’m really excited to be riding in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup this year. It will be my first experience of riding in Britain and there is no better place to do it than Ascot,” said Michel.

“The Shergar Cup is a competition that all the top jockeys around the world want to ride in and I’m looking forward to being part of the Ladies Team and hopefully lifting the trophy.”