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Turner eyeing top jockey title as Racing League heads for Newcastle finale

Hayley Turner has another coveted title in her sights as leader of the William Hill Racing League jockeys’ table – but admits she will be looking over her shoulder at the chasing pack on the final night of the inaugural competition.

Turner, of course, is no stranger to success in team events – as the all-time leading rider in the history of Ascot’s Shergar Cup and recently recipient of the permanent trophy for that famous annual event.

She would therefore be an appropriate first winner of the Racing League’s equivalent prize, and has a favourite’s chance as joint leader alongside the absent Louis Steward on 207 points.

Turner will be leading the charge at Newcastle on Thursday for Team ThoroughBid – who are just four points clear of their closest rivals Goat Racing.

She has three rides for Andrew Balding and another for Richard Hannon, and a seven-point cushion ahead of Team talkSPORT’s Jack Mitchell – with Goat Racing’s reserve rider Steward unable to further his claims, because he is serving a riding ban.

The threat posed by Mitchell and a clutch of others such as Saffie Osborne is significant, however, as Turner acknowledges.

“It’s still a bit open – because I think Jack Mitchell’s not far behind me, and Martin Dwyer and Saffie (Osborne),” she said.

“I think they’ve all got good rides, so I’m not over-confident of keeping my head in front.”

Hayley Turner is no stranger to success in team events
Hayley Turner is no stranger to success in team events (Steven Paston/PA)

There are 25 points on offer to the winner of each of the six races through the card.

Turner is optimistic of adding to her tally with her four mounts, and is also hoping ThoroughBid can stay in front.

“They’ve all got chances, so that’s good,” she added.

“We’ve had a good few weeks (at ThoroughBid), and I know that Sean (Levey) has a couple of good rides for Richard (Hannon) as well.

“It’s tight, though. It’s not a given going into the last one.

“It’s always a bit of fun. It’s nice to do something a bit different – so yes, it would be good (to win), and I’m glad the competition has gone down well with everyone.”

Saffie Osborne has enjoyed a fine time of things in the Racing League
Saffie Osborne has enjoyed a fine time of things in the Racing League (Nigel French/PA)

Turner’s evening begins with Balding’s Winterwatch in the opening race over an extended mile and a half, and she also rides Scampi and Fox Premier for the Kingsclere trainer before relying on Hannon’s Kool Moe Dee in the last.

Winterwatch is an unexposed and improving three-year-old.

Turner said: “I think Josh (Bryan) has been riding him, and he’s done a good job on him at home as well.

“I don’t know (much) about the horse, but I’ll have a chat with him. He’s done nothing wrong so far.”

She expects Newcastle’s stiffer track to suit Scampi better than Lingfield last time – when they finished third together – and also senses good chances with Fox Premier and Kool Moe Dee.

She said of the former: “He ran well last time, staying on. He’s always in with a shout, and he’s a very genuine and consistent horse.”

As for Kool Moe Dee, Turner added: “He was unlucky last time at Lingfield.

“He didn’t get the breaks when he needed them. He’s run a couple of good races – he’s not the most straightforward horse to ride, but you wouldn’t rule him out altogether.”

Team talkSPORT's Jack Mitchell is hot on the heels of Hayley Turner
Team talkSPORT’s Jack Mitchell is hot on the heels of Hayley Turner (Tim Goode/PA)

Mitchell has a notably strong book of rides, and is still full of hope for both his title challenge and that of talkSPORT – who are currently more than 35 points adrift of the top two, in third of 12.

He is relishing the challenge, and told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s going to be competitive stuff.

“It’s obviously very tight at the top of the jockeys’ table – and even the team table can change very quickly, so I’m hoping talkSPORT have a good team to go to war with.”

On Steward’s absence, he added: “It’s sad for him. Obviously, Louis has done brilliantly throughout the whole series – and Goat Racing have had a good team to go forward with.

“There’s enough points on offer. I’ve got six (rides), I think Saffie’s got six, (and) Hayley’s got four – so there’s plenty of chances.”

The leading rider at the end of the competition will take home a £25,000 bonus, with £15,000 to the second and £10,000 to the third-placed jockey.