Mickaëlle Michel is intent on enjoying the occasion and the experience when she achieves her long-held ambition of taking part in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.
Michel is France’s former champion apprentice, a Group Two winner in Italy and the toast of Japan after riding 30 winners there last year – a record tally for an overseas jockey in the second-tier National Association of Racing.
The 26-year-old will be setting foot on a British racecourse for the first time on Saturday when she joins Hayley Turner – the most successful jockey in Shergar Cup history – and Nicola Currie in the Ladies team for the 2021 edition.
Michel has been an avid long-distance spectator – and, she admits, a “jealous” one too – of an annual event she put on her participation wish-list years ago.
She said: “I am really excited to ride in the Shergar Cup. It is a new experience for me – I have never ridden in the UK.
“It’s my first time visiting (any) British racecourse, so I can’t wait.
“It’s crazy for me, because I’m young – and I’ve just been (race-)riding for three and a half years – so I’m very lucky.”
In that short time, Michel has proved herself in France – where her 2018 tally of 72 victories is a national record for a female jockey – and abroad, notably on Walderbe, winning Italy’s Premio Jockey Club at San Siro last October and then finishing runner-up in the Dubai Gold Cup in March.
Nonetheless, a British debut in the rarefied environs of Ascot promises to be another huge step in her burgeoning career.
“I am riding at one of the most famous racecourses with famous jockeys, on Shergar Cup Day – and I know there will be a special atmosphere,” she said.
“I’ve watched the Shergar Cup every year.
“At the beginning of my career, I said to my agent ‘I’m jealous – I want to be there, it’s famous’.
“I’ve been to a lot of championships, but I’m very proud to be coming to the Shergar Cup – and I hope the French people are proud as well.
“So maybe the young girls, like me three years ago, will be saying they want to be there too.”
Michel knows an Ascot victory will boost her profile exponentially and fast-track hopes of becoming an international Group One star – but she is determined to savour the experience too.
She added: “I want to be an international jockey, like Frankie Dettori or Christophe Soumillon.
“I have already ridden in many different countries. The Shergar Cup was a goal for me – and now I will enjoy the day.
“Whether I win or not, I really want to enjoy it. I’m sure it will be a fantastic day.”
Michel is confident the Ladies team will acquit themselves well against their British, Irish and Rest of the World opponents.
“I am very happy that Hayley Turner is captain,” she said.
“I know her and have ridden with her before. She knows Ascot and the Shergar Cup very well, so it is a good advantage for the team – and I’m sure we will be a good team together.
“I have had very good experiences across the world and do lots of research to know the horses before the race. I have watched many races in the UK and have ridden a few races with British jockeys.
“I will walk the track in the morning. I spoke to Christophe Soumillon a few days ago, and he has given me some advice about the track.”
She hopes to upgrade to the Japan Racing Association next year, but would also dearly love to find the opportunities she craves in her native country.
Michel acknowledges she, and all female French jockeys in France, are indebted to British record-breaker Hollie Doyle for demonstrating to both them and prospective connections that women can ride the winners of the best races.
“My next goal is to win a Group One – and also, I would also like to pass the JRA exam to become a jockey in Japan next year,” she added.
“I really want to stay in France, because we have very good horses, but I think they are not ready to have female jockeys riding in big races.
“I have worked hard for that change.
“I’m very happy with my career, but I want a chance to ride in Group races – I don’t want to stay (just) a handicap jockey.
“The female jockeys in France love seeing Hollie Doyle win a Group One – because it is great publicity for her, but also every female jockey.
“She shows that she can do it, but also that we can do it!
“It shows you (must) never give up, and I think we are going the right way.”
A successful day at Ascot will, of course, provide new impetus for her and others.
She added: “Every winner can change your career – a small winner or a big one.
“If I can win one race in Ascot, it is famous.
“I know it is rare to come to Ascot, and for a female international jockey even more rare.
“It is therefore a big opportunity to ride at the Shergar Cup – and if I can ride a winner, then that will be a big impact for me.”
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