Record breaking jockey and Matchbook ambassador Hayley Turner is rapidly becoming one of the leading analysts through her work on ITV and At The Races. And in her role as Matchbook ambassador she’s looking to help our customers find even more value from every bet.
Her unique insight and deep knowledge of flat racing is like gold dust for horse racing bettors so we took some time in part 2 of our exclusive interview to pick her brains on the current season. We spoke to Hayley to find out what she thinks of the latest crop of two-year-olds, which jockeys to watch for and what she makes of draw bias, what happens to jockeys when they lose their claim and much more.
What jockeys are impressing you a the moment – who should we be looking for as potential stars of the future?
I thought George Wood, who is an apprentice to James Fanshawe and has been away for the winter to America, has impressed. If a jockey goes away for the winter they have to get back into it but I think he is going to shine as the season progresses.
Do you have any thoughts on the Jockey’s Championship this year?
It’s too early right now but the obvious ones are Silvestre [de Sousa] and Jim [Crowley] who have both started the season like they will give it a go. However, I think Jim might struggle a little bit more than he is expecting because he is retained by [Sheikh] Hamdan [Al Maktoum] whereas Silvestre is darting around all over the place. I also think Andrea Atzeni, who is one of my favourite jockeys, has a good chance.
Do you think we will see more female jockeys coming through and winning group 1 races? Who should we be watching for?
I think Josephine Gordon is the main one at the moment. She is in her first year at her claim and she is getting a lot of support from trainer Hugo Palmer. In fact, she has already ridden a couple of group races this year and although they haven’t really done that well, you have got to start somewhere. I can certainly see her having a great career, including winning group 1 races.
A lot is spoken about draw bias in flat racing, but how much impact do you feel it has and are there any particular courses you found it had a big impact?
Chester’s May Festival is coming up and the draw there is very important. Also, Kempton over the five furlongs and the mile-and-a-quarter tight track, so the tight-turning ones are the main ones, Chester being the main one.
Chester is a unique track with very tight turns where a low draw is key, so what would your tactics be if drawn high?
It depends on the horse; some need holding up while some need to go forward. If you are drawn wide you have to do one or the other, you can’t think you’ll sit mid division on this because you can’t get into mid division and if you do you’ll end up three or four wide. So you jump out with a Plan A but you’ll usually have to go to Plan B or Plan C.
Are there any courses you didn’t enjoy riding on?
Course form is very important for a horse. Some horses enjoy going left handed or right handed, some horses like long, galloping tracks where they have lots of time to pick up and gain momentum. Then some strong gallopers like tight-turning tracks. As to jockeys, I always thought I was pretty good at Southwell as I rode there that often. However, Southwell is very different to ride compared with the other tracks.
So what it was about Southwell?
I was lucky enough to ride for Connor Dore there and he knew the track. There is a way of riding it where you need to go forward and kick a long way out. Because it is quite a deep surface, people think the opposite. The track suits keen horses and I always think horses stay further at Southwell than they would anywhere else but people wouldn’t think that because of the deep surface. So they drop horses back in trip instead of stepping them up.
How important is course form to the jockey?
I think you sometimes get into a rut with tracks that are a bit further away and people look at stats and think that jockey is no good there but as a jockey I just think you need the horse as it’s the horse that has got to run round whether you like the track or not. But certain tracks you could say seem to suit jockeys such as Franny Norton at Chester, Richard Hills at Goodwood, Richard Hughes at Windsor.
Looking at the horses coming through this season, are there any two year olds that have caught your eye?
There are a couple of Clive Cox’s. One is called Kick On Kick On, which won recently at Leicester on his debut while the other is Koditime. Clive has had a great start with his two year olds.
With the three, four and five-year-olds, how much emphasis should be placed on previous form?
With the younger horses that have had a really long winter off it’s difficult. If you look at one of Hughie Morrison’s [Sweet Selection] that won the group 3 [Sagaro Stakes] at Ascot in early May, last year it finished fourth in a 0-75. So the horse has developed massively in a year. I think with three-year-olds in the early season you need to look at the horses that are bred to need a bit more time off, but it’s difficult to pinpoint any as it’s still too early.
What other horses should we keep an eye on this season? Who is likely to make a big impression?
I thought The Tin Man finished the season off well. I ride out for James Fanshawe a lot and The Tin Man is his big gun this year. He’s going very well right now but he’s a quirky horse.
You’ve talked in the past about “steering jobs” on truly great horses. Are there any out there at the moment that stand out for you?
They don’t happen very often. I think one of the horses this year that was a steering job was Jack Hobbs in the group race [Dubai Sheema Classic] at Meydan. He’s always had a lot of ability but I don’t think he has ever put his head down completely and then when they put blinkers on him for the first time in Dubai he won on the bridle. That performance is what he had up his sleeve the whole time. If they keep the blinkers on him this season he is a good one to keep an eye on.
You clearly have a love of sport outside of racing, what do you enjoy betting on most and how do you pick bets?
I just think having a flutter on sport makes you more interested and more likely to watch an event. I always like having a bet on the golf and I like betting on boxing. I thought that Anthony Joshua would win on points but that didn’t quite come off.
We noticed your golf bets on the Masters [Hayley backed Justin Rose] and wonder if that gets you interested in trading during the event?
Yes, I’m definitely interested in this. I could have traded Justin Rose out for a profit as he went onto lose the playoff against Sergio Garcia. I wish I’d done that now! It’s all quite new to me but I’m getting the hang of it.