Hayley Turner invited to join Queen's guard of honour on Derby Day at Epsom

A jockey from Nottingham who has ridden regularly for the Queen has spoken of her pride at being asked to join a guard of honour on Derby Day at Epsom as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

By Richard Silverwood
Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 11:30 am

Hayley Turner, 39, is a trailblazer in the sport, having become the first female jockey to ride 100 Flat race winners in a calendar year.

Now she is due to be one of 40 current and retired riders dressed in the royal silks who will line the route for the royal car as it arrives ahead of the Derby, sponsored by Cazoo, on Saturday.

It was originally hoped that the Queen herself would be there, but she is now likely to be represented by Princess Anne.

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Hayley Turner (second from right) lines up at Epsom Downs racecourse with other jockeys, past and present, asked to form the Queen's guard of honour on Cazoo Derby Day, from left, Franny Norton, John Reid, David Probert and James Doyle. They are all wearing the royal silks.

As well as riding several winners for the Queen, Turner was awarded an OBE in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to horse racing.

After growing up in Nottingham, she moved to Newmarket to pursue her career and created history in 2011 when she became the first female jockey to win a Group One race outright, partnering Dream Ahead to victory in the July Cup.

With other fixtures taking place around the country on Saturday, Turner must wait to see if she is needed to ride elsewhere before she can guarantee her place in the guard of honour.

But she said: “It would be great to be involved because horse racing is the Queen’s passion.

The Queen is rarely happier than when at the races. Here, she is pictured at Epsom on Derby Day in 1989.

"It’s quite funny because my family aren’t in racing, and whenever I’ve met Her Majesty, they always ask: what do you talk about? I tell them we just talk about the horses.

"She’s easy to talk to because her eyes light up and she’s interested immediately. You’ve got her attention. You don’t have to go on about politics or anything. You just talk about the horses.”

Turner, who is also a regular pundit on ITV Racing, recalled the first time she met the Queen when riding one of her horses at Newbury.

She said: “I was really lucky. I was riding for trainer Michael Bell, who had just started training for the Queen. There was a horse I'd ridden a lot at home and he kept me on her for the day at Newbury, which she usually attends.

“I was really nervous - not about the actual race but about going into the paddock to meet Her Majesty.

"I was really nervous, but when I went out, we chatted about the horse and she was really keen to learn about the horse's character.

“She's not usually bothered about the rating or the form and stuff, but if you talk to her about the horse's personality and what challenges you have with it, the good and the bad stuff, she likes.

“Anyway, when I went out on to the track, it was a big relief and riding was easy. I won the race, so we got up on the podium and we took a picture with the prize.”

Turner continued: "A year later, I rode in another race for her at the same meeting and the same thing happened.

"I went to the paddock very nervous, rode the horse and it won, so we were back on the podium.

"The Queen stood next to me with the trophy and she said: we've done this before haven't we? I said: yes, ma'am, you should pay me a retainer!

"She looked at me and went: ha ha ha! I thought I’d pushed my luck but she was great.”

With so many horses in training, the Queen cannot attend every time she has a runner. However, Turner explained how the monarch will still always watch the race, whether it be live on TV or a recording of it later the same day.

She said: “I know she'll always watch the race. I ride for Andrew Balding as well and he'll always say: she'll be watching.

"If you don't win but the horse runs well and she sees the horse progressing and enjoying things, then you know she'll be happy.”

Ironically, when Turner rode her first Royal Ascot winner, the runner-up, beaten just a neck, was owned by the Queen

The jockey recalled: “She rang Michael Bell and said: I was very cross to start with, but then I thought no, very well done. Well done, Hayley!

"So even though I beat her, she sent on her best wishes. She's a good loser, but she's had more Royal Ascot winners than me!”

Not only is the Queen a passionate follower of horse racing, she also cares deeply about her equine stars and where they go after their careers on the track have finished.

Turner explained: “It's not just about the breeding and how well they've done. My mum rehomes racehorses, and there was one morning that Her Majesty came to look around the horses at Michael Bell's yard.

“Afterwards, we all went into the kitchen. My mum had just started rehoming racehorses and she'd made this really tacky, laminated folder that she asked me to give to Michael.

“Her Majesty came in and while we were all sat around the table, she picked the folder up.

"I thought oh no, but she started flicking through it and was giving no-one any of her attention.

"When she stood up to leave, she looked at me and asked: may I take this with me? I said yes ma'am, and ever since, she has sent my mum two or three horses every year to be rehomed.

“If they're show jumping, dressage, whatever they are doing, she's really keen to know because it's important.

"Horses finish their careers quite early and they're obviously athletic and ambitious animals, so shouldn’t just get put in a field.

"I think she cares that they have something to do to suit them. She cares a lot about horses."

THIS article was kindly supplied by Barry Rabbetts, of The Jockey Club, which runs Epsom Downs racecourse.