If you subscribe to Racing UK do try and watch the interview with Hayley Turner, which they’ll broadcast tomorrow morning at 1130. It is on this weekend because it’s a year since her first Group 1 win in last year’s Darley July Cup, and that’s covered in some depth.
What’s most telling in the interview is the discussion of the serious injury three years ago in 2009 that very nearly ended her career. It shows a sportswoman absolutely driven to distraction by that possibility and equally driven to prove she was fit and capable. Thank goodness she was able to do so.
Turner’s didn’t sustain her injury in a race, nor in hard running on the gallops. She was working with trainer Phil McEntee to get some of his horses used to the starting stalls when one of them fell, breaking a shoulder and launching Turner head first into the ground. She was knocked out and when she came round had blood coming out of her ears. Her family were summoned as she was on her way to hospital, because it wasn’t clear how serious the head injuries she had sustained were.
Turner explained how she felt the following day. “I was looking in the paper and my short term memory had gone. I didn’t know where I was and what I was doing and who’d been to see me. But I did know that I was a jockey and that I was riding at Wolverhampton and they wouldn’t let me go and ride. And that won so I was like ‘now look what you’ve done – I’ve missed a winner’.”
The spirit that she showed right at the start was to pull her through some difficult times in the following months, most notably after she had been to London to see a specialist. After he had seen the results of a scan he dismissed Turner with the words “I don’t think you’re ever going to ride again but anyway, I’ll have a go.”
Fortunately the intense misery that news provoked was short lived, as a call later that day from Dr Michael Turner, the British Horseracing Authority’s chief medical adviser offered some respite. He told her, “Oh no, we’ve decided it probably won’t be for ever, it might just be a year.”
Turner wasn’t ready to accept that. She was soon riding out again for her regular employer, Michael Bell, and with his support, she appealed against the decision, and was able to return to race riding after a four-month break. Turner acknowledges she was not the most patient of patients. She said, “I just kept wanting to ride. I didn’t care about anything else or anyone else. I was just so focussed and driven. My mum and my sisters hated me. I was ridiculous really, just totally hungry to get back with no consideration for anyone else. It was like it was the worst situation that anyone had ever been in. You know, ‘poor me’.”
The Racing UK interview covers several other subjects, amongst them, how she sees the issue of gender in racing. To hear what she has to say about that, and the time she and fellow jockey Gary Carter nearly came to blows, you’ll need to tune in tomorrow.