By Jon Lees
Italy: Mickaelle Michel hailed 2020 as a landmark year for female jockeys in Europe after she claimed her first G2 victory on another successful visit to Italy.
The 25-year-old secured her second Group win on German colt Walderbe, trained by Ralf Rohne, when the pair landed the Premio Jockey Club at San Siro, beating Nerium by a neck. One of Italy’s most prestigious races, the 1m4f event better known as the Gran Premio del Jockey Club was a G1 until 2017.
“It’s unbelievable because I am a young jockey and a female jockey so I am very lucky to have a good trainer and owner to support me,” said Michel. “It was a really good moment. I think he can win another good race this year.”
Michel became a record breaker in Japan earlier this year when she set a new best for the most wins by an overseas jockey on a short-term licence on the National Association of Racing circuit.
She reached her latest milestone in a month when Britain’s Hollie Doyle rode her first G1 winner on Glen Shiel in the British Champions Sprint after breaking her own record for the most wins in a year by a female jockey in Britain. In France, Jessica Marcialis became the first female to ride a G1 winner when Tiger Tanaka captured the Prix Marcel Boussac.
“It’s really good for me and other female jockeys,” said Michel. “This year in Europe lots of women jockeys have won many Group races and it’s very good publicity for us because we can say we are female, but we are not just female, we are jockeys also.”
Michel and Walderbe won the G3 Premio Carlo d’Alessio over 1m4f in July but were only fifth in the G2 Federico Tesio over 1m2f in September.
“Before the race I was happy because the ground was soft, which my horse likes, and the trip was longer,” she said. “My horse was in good shape and when the gates opened nobody wanted to go to the front so I took a decision to go in front.
“He is a horse who doesn’t have a big kick, he’s a galloper. In the last 300 metres Nerium took the lead but I didn’t move because I knew my horse and knew he could win. It was a fantastic moment. I am really happy.”
Michel has ridden 16 winners in France this year but is still hoping to return to Japan to sit the jockeys’ exam to secure a Japan Racing Association licence. With that aim, she continues to take lessons in Japanese and English.
Her partner and manager, former jockey Frederic Spanu, said: “Mickaelle has a business visa and is ready to leave for Japan but we wait for the authorization from the government to get on the plane. For the moment nobody can go to Japan.”
Of her latest success, he added: “We were expecting to finish in the first three, but when I saw the horse looked in such fantastic shape before the race I told Mickaelle I thought she would do something special.
“This was a great moment. The race is historic because so many good horses, jockeys, trainers have won it in its 100-year history, fantastic horses like Ribot and the Arc winner Tony Bin. It’s a classic race in Italy, like a Derby.”