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Turner's real prize is defying prejudices

In the aftermath of her groundbreaking July Cup triumph on Dream Ahead on Saturday, Hayley Turner had the media eating out of her hands.

"I know a lot of trainers were moaning about all the big meetings on one day but it has played into my hands. All the jockeys are taken, so they got left with me!" she said.

The above contribution was a typically self-effacing quip from a rider who frequently displays an assured sense of self-awareness and humility rarely matched by her Flat counterparts.

Given the prejudices she would have had to endure before becoming the first female jockey ever to win a Group One outright in Ireland or England, that she exhibits such a distinct lack of arrogance is no surprise.

Turner, more than anyone, knows all too well that there is an element of truth in her success being one for circumstance and opportunity rather than outright deservedness -- which isn't to say she isn't deserving.

Girls simply don't get the chances at the highest level on the Flat. Since Alex Greaves shared the Nunthorpe honours on Ya Malak (trained by her husband Dandy Nicholls) 14 years ago, you'd struggle to name a single female rider before Turner that had even ridden in a Group One on these islands.

Turner herself had only done so once previously, when unplaced in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood a year ago on the 25/1 shot Barshiba. Weeks earlier, the same horse had carried her to her sole pattern race triumph in the Group Two Lancashire Oaks.

Of course, it's not just because she is a girl. There are plenty of riders in the same bracket as Turner that don't ever win a Group race or ride in a Group One, but you are even further down the food chain if you are a member of the fairer sex.

Group One races are often decided by millimetres, and the strength of the jockey matters when the whips are up. Remember, in the aftermath of the nine-day ban that he received for galvanising Rewilding at So You Think's expense at Ascot, Frankie Dettori reasoned: "We are talking huge valuations of future stallions in a multi-million-pound industry.

"What would have happened if I had got beat on Rewilding and come back and said, sir, if I'd given him one more I would have won?"

When the margins are so tight, it often comes down to physical strength, and no one wants an unequal match. It is a biology issue, not a gender one.

Hayley Turner's biggest triumph, then, wasn't what she did in the 3.35 at Newmarket on Saturday. In fact, given Dream Ahead's utter superiority, that was the easy part.

The real measure of her achievement is that she had won the right to be there at all.

Cape Blanco comes out on top

Jamie Spencer's renewed alliance with Aidan O'Brien yielded another significant victory when Cape Blanco denied Gio Ponti a third successive Man O'War Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday night.

The win sets Cape Blanco up for a tilt at next month's Arlington Million. Given that Spencer's ride on Powerscourt in the Million in 2004, when he lost the race in the stewards' room after failing to keep his mount straight, seemed to define his earlier ill-fated Ballydoyle stint, it would be a fitting opportunity to lay a few ghosts to rest.

On the debit side, Spencer's American foray cost him the July Cup ride on Dream Ahead. Still, look what that prompted.

Ride of the weekend

Samantha Bell on Bahama Spirit at Fairyhouse yesterday.

On a good weekend for the girls, Bell's decisive front-running steer in the six-furlong maiden was textbook stuff. The seven-pound claimer seized the initiative as soon as the stalls opened, and proceeded to set a sensible gallop. Having established a couple of lengths' advantage, she kicked for home as they turned in before anything could land a blow.

Ballydoyle riders are on the money

In the opener at Tipperary on Saturday, Joseph O'Brien's mount Furner's Green was the subject of late support, returning the 5/2 favourite from 4/1.

The Dylan Thomas colt overtook his fellow Ballydoyle debutant Battle Of Saratoga in the market and, not for the first time this year, the stable money proved spot on.

At Fairyhouse yesterday, the Irish Derby-winning rider Colm O'Donoghue obliged on David Marnane's Jamesie. Backed from 8/1 into 3/1, the partnership saw off the challenges of Dotada and Gandolfini and never looked like getting beaten.


"My Ipad 2 and one for Emma and the babies has just ironed out a fair chunk of my M O W pay cheque! #lifeisforliving" -- Jamie Spencer leaves some of his winnings behind in the US following Cape Blanco's triumph in New York on Saturday night.

Numbers game

8 Where the Dermot Weld-trained Cannon Hill finished in the American Derby at Arlington on Saturday night, beating just two horses home.

Irish Independent