Hayley Turner has had a most memorable year but will surely make short work of forgetting this return to action here at Kempton on Tuesday, three and a half months after her ankle was broken in a pre-race fall at Bath.
Having been unplaced on her first two mounts, one of them a favourite, she had the embarrassing experience of being unable to pull up her final ride, Lucky Art, after a false start.
It was another horse who was judged to have burst through the stalls, meaning that a recall was inevitable, but Lucky Art, a habitual fast starter according to his trainer, Conor Dore, was in no mood to be stopped.
He towed Turner past the stands to a smattering of ironic cheers and became an automatic non-runner as soon as he crossed the line, five furlongs away from the start.
It appeared that there were no hard feelings on the part of Dore, who has been Turner's second most significant employer this year, supplying her with 23 winners. "She was a bit overhorsed for the first day back," he said after what appeared a good-natured postmortem with the jockey.
Earlier, Turner had surprised those familiar with the usual tactics employed on Opus Maximus, who is almost invariably held up until the last quarter-mile, by allowing him to make rapid headway to join the leader with six furlongs to go. The manoeuvre did not pay off, the 2-1 favourite fading into sixth.
"I just need to work harder to get a bit stronger," she said after dismounting. The issue appeared to be playing on her mind, as she later tweeted: "Tonight i'll be having spinach for supper and for breakfast … Weetabix!"
Speaking before racing began, Turner had denied having any "massive plans to come back and get on a good thing. Also, I'm riding on the tighter track, so, as good as the form is, you still need a bit of luck in running".
In the absence of same, the most successful female jockey in the history of British racing will simply have to turn the page in the form book and move on. Fortunately, there is no shortage of all-weather action to help her do so. She has four booked rides at Wolverhampton on Wednesday and two more at Southwell on Thursday. After a short Christmas with her family, she expects to be back in the saddle on Boxing Day, with the aim of a busy January to follow. "I've had four months off, so I can't be too lazy, can I?"
It is barely five months since Turner became the first woman jockey to ride the outright winner of a British Group One race, on Dream Ahead in the July Cup. She followed up the next month with Margot Did in the Nunthorpe Stakes, only to have her season brought to a shuddering halt by her injury 12 days later.
But that has not stopped her advancing her career in other ways. An effective promoter of herself, Turner has put a lot of work into her website during her enforced holiday and has had her achievements recognised by nominations at various award ceremonies. She was named "most inspirational sportswoman" at the Jaguar awards and is expected to be recognised as William Hill's sportswoman of the year on Wednesday when the result is revealed of a poll among its customers.
"I've had a wonderful time and met lots of people and it's been nice to do all this stuff," she said. "But it's nice to get back and get my head down and hopefully work hard. I can reward myself by having a couple of months off at the end of .
"The recovery's not been too bad. It hurt at the time but after the operation it's been fine because they screwed it and fixed it up. I haven't even needed painkillers."
Turner is especially pleased that she has been able to drive during her recovery, because her car is an automatic and the injury was to her left leg. Her friend and rival, Cathy Gannon, who broke a leg in October and is out until February, has not been so lucky.
"She's going to the doctor's [on Wednesday] and she's hoping they can pass her fit to drive. She said it's driving her mad that she can't. It's always good banter with Cathy. I do miss her when she's not about."
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