With June 1st looking more and more likely as the date that racing returns to the UK, you can sense that everyone in Newmarket is stepping their training up. The trainers are starting to up the work and hopefully next week we will start seeing some entries through which will give us something to talk about at least!
Given the focus on horse racing in the last few weeks has been in France, I thought I’d look back on my time spent over there in 2017.
Having retired from race riding at the end of the 2015 season, I spent my time doing plenty of media work on AtTheRaces and ITV racing whilst also taking the occasional ride in events like the Shergar Cup at Ascot. France Galop then announced that they were introducing a new 2kg (4.4lb) weight allowance to increase opportunities for female jockeys and I saw it as too good an opportunity to miss! It also gave me a good excuse to get back into the saddle as I was itching to get riding again!
Hayley spent two years on ITV and AtTheRaces before returning to the saddle in 2017
Sourcing Rides in France
I was very lucky to be introduced to Hervé Naggar who is one of the main agents over in France, he’s the go-to man over there with jockeys like Pierre-Charles Boudot on his books and he was fantastic to me. Not only was excellent at sourcing me rides, but he was incredibly helpful in getting me to and around France.
Hayley was based in Chantilly with trainer Francis Graffard
I was based at Chantilly with Francis Graffard. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Chantilly, it is France’s equivalent of Newmarket where their main training centre is, it’s also an absolutely beautiful setting and a spectacular place to ride out. Riding in France did take some getting used to but it definitely gave me a fresh impetus and it was exciting riding out at new tracks. Of the jockeys out there, PC Boudot was really helpful too and it’s been great to see him doing so well now.
Hayley enjoyed plenty of success in France including for the legendary Freddy Head
Hayley’s French Winners
I enjoyed quite a few winners over there including a winner for Freddy Head which was very special – I’d have never have got the chance to ride one for him without the allowance.
I rode a lot for a great owner called John Corbani and he and his wife Isabelle have got a massive interest in French racing – he’s now got horses with Michael Bell and become a good friend of mine so I have a lot of fond memories from my time in France!
Having watched a bit of their racing since it resumed, it has reminded me of the style of races over there and how different it is over there – they tend to go a bit slower earlier and that their interference rules are certainly more strict than they are over here!
In terms of the language, you may well be wondering how I managed! My french isn’t particularly strong and whilst I did learn a little bit and had some lessons, I did struggle to really pick up the language with the other female jockeys in the weighing room as they speak so fast together!