'It's a bitter pill to swallow': Hayley Turner upset after betting breach ban
UK jockey Hayley Turner expressed her disappointment on Thursday after a "stupid error" resulted in her licence being suspended for three months.
She will not appeal against the decision of the disciplinary panel, handed down after a hearing at BHA headquarters in London which dealt with her betting on horses while a professional licensed jockey.
Turner, who initially retired in November 2015 but has ridden intermittently since and more regularly lately, was found in breach of rule 53D in that she placed bets between December 2015 and July 2017 while licensed.
The bets were placed on a Paddy Power account she opened in her own name in December 2015 and were drawn to the BHA's notice by the bookmaker this August.
For the vast majority of the period under scrutiny Turner was a licensed jockey and thus prohibited from backing or laying horses, but in her own mind she appeared to lead two separate lives, one in which she could bet and one in which she couldn't.
She said: "I'm a bit disappointed. Three months is a quarter of a year of not earning any money, and the BHA have said I'm not a threat to the sport.
"I've put my hands up from the word go. When I was actively riding, I'd never have a bet. I've respected the rules for 15 years I've been riding. But when I'm doing media and I'm retired, in my head I'm not a jockey and so it's okay to have a bet.
"They were small bets, £5 here, a tenner there, nothing serious. I've never had a bet on my own horse or in a race in which I'm riding. It was just fun. I'm not a serious or addictive gambler.
"It was a stupid error and I'm paying for it. I'm 34 but still learning, unfortunately.
"I did break the rules but I've spent my whole adult life putting into the sport more than I should have done. It's a bitter pill to swallow."
Two of the bets were of £100, but the majority were much smaller – the median was £10 and the mean £18.62 – and there was no discernible pattern in terms of jockeys and trainers.
Typically, Turner said, they might be placed at the racecourse while working as a television pundit. In total she made a profit of around £160.
The facts of the case were not disputed, and the BHA conceded the nature of Turner's betting was no threat to the sport's integrity.
Turner's solicitor Rory Mac Neice argued a suspension or disqualification would be "wholly inappropriate in these exceptional circumstances" and asked for a penalty that reflected her two modes – her failure to recognise that while in her mind she was no longer a jockey, still holding a licence meant she was.
He underlined she had made a full, unambiguous apology, had shown insight into what she did wrong, and considerable remorse.
He said: "It was an error of judgement. It might be a significant one and it shouldn't have happened, but Hayley has given much more to the sport than she's taken from it. She has an unblemished record over a long career."
While conceding there had been "no corruption or dishonesty", and that Turner has been an excellent ambassador for racing and the promotion of female participants in the sport, panel chairman Patrick Milmo QC, however, said that did not excuse her lax and complacent attitude to the rules of racing.
He said: "Reluctantly we have concluded a fine is not an appropriate penalty for a jockey who has broken a fundamental rule. In our view there has to be a suspension for a period of three months."
BHA chief regulatory officer Jamie Stier said in a statement: "It's a strict requirement under the rules of racing in Britain that licensed jockeys do not place bets on any races.
"It's simply not appropriate for the public's perception of the sport's integrity that those who are licensed to ride in races should be able to bet on the sport, even on races in which they're not participating. This is consistent with other major sports.
"Hayley Turner has made a full admission and apology regarding the rule breaches she has committed, and the BHA's position was that it is appropriate this should be considered in mitigation when it came to determining penalty. The guideline entry point for an offence of this nature is an 18-month disqualification."
Professional Jockeys' Association chief executive Paul Struthers, said: “On the one hand the penalty is disappointing and disproportionate to the offences in question and is going to prove very costly to Hayley.
"However, she had a fair hearing, fully accepts responsibility for her unintended breaches of the rules, and accepts the punishment."
He added: “The circumstances surrounding this case are unique and it's hard to envisage a similar situation occurring again. Despite this, Hayley has volunteered to appear in one of the next in the series of Jockey Matters films, which will focus on the rules of racing and betting to help ensure other jockeys, particularly young riders, understand the rules and don’t fall foul of them.”
Pioneering jockey Turner shared the champion apprentice title in 2005 with Saleem Golam and in 2008 became the first woman to ride 100 winners in Britain.
She won two midsummer Group 1 sprints in 2011, on Dream Ahead in the July Cup and Margot Did in the Nunthorpe, but announced her retirement at the age of 32 at the end of the 2015 turf season.
Since then she has built a media career, working first for At The Races, and then becoming part of the new ITV Racing team that succeeded Channel 4.
It is understood ITV Racing are fully supportive of Turner, and that the case will not affect their relationship with her.
She plans to return to the saddle, having returned primarily to take advantage of the 2kg allowance for female riders in France that was introduced this year, and said: "I had plans for the winter to ride in France but I have to accept I've broken the rules. People will learn from my mistake. It's an unusual case.
"I do intend to ride again in March. The reason I got back riding was because of the new rule in France but now I've got the bug again and I'm riding plenty of winners.
"More importantly I'm enjoying it again, which I had stopped doing before I retired."