Shergar Cup debutante Nicola Currie was a late call-up when other commitments meant Hollie Doyle could not be at Ascot and she seized the opportunity in style, winning the Silver Saddle for leading individual rider with 47 points to lead the Ladies’ team to glory.
Currie ran away with the individual honours thanks to two wins, a second and a third, but just five points separated the top three teams in the Dubai Duty Free-backed competition. A first, second and fourth in the final race for Team Ireland lifted them to 66 points, two ahead of Great Britain, but Currie’s third on Royal Scimitar took the Ladies to an all-conquering total of 69.
“What a day, it’s been absolutely fantastic,” said the 28-year-old Currie. “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but what a fantastic day and all the publicity is great. It’s hard work being a jockey so any publicity is good publicity, especially with two winners on the board.
“I had to work for both of them, they were two horses who the more I asked, the more they gave. It’s amazing to get the opportunity to ride for trainers you don’t normally ride for and this is my favourite course.”
In 2018 Currie rode 81 winners, last year she partnered 23. “I had a very quiet two years, I had an injury and it caught up with me and I couldn’t get the ball rolling again, but hopefully this year is different and today will help with that,” she said.
“It’s well-needed and it’s more relief rather than enjoyment at this stage because I want to keep improving my career. I don’t just want to make a living, I want to make something of it and follow in the footsteps of Hayley [Turner] and Hollie. It’s going the right way, so long may it continue.”
Currie’s team captain Hayley Turner was part of a winning Ladies’ team for a third time, having claimed the Cup in 2015 and 2018 and the winner of the last two Silver Saddles will get to keep the 20-year-old Shergar Cup with a new trophy next year.
“Nicola’s carried the girls today and it’s nice to see because she deserves to get some good rides, she’s a very good rider,” said Turner, who scored seven points with Mickaelle Michel adding 15.
“It’s really helped me over the years to project my career and I hope it will for Nicola. She’s so good and I’m delighted. We couldn’t have had a better result – unless it was me obviously.”
With three team successes in the last six years as well as a member of the Ladies’ team claiming the Silver Saddle four times in that period, the need for the Ladies team has been questioned and the track’s director of racing Nick Smith revealed that a major revamp of the competition is planned for 2022.
“All these things are reviewed and I wouldn’t say anything is set in stone, we’re going to review the whole format for the event for next year and we’re hoping to have a big relaunch. I don’t think there will be dramatic changes but we’ll consider the best ways to use female riders within the teams as the crowd on site engage with the Ladies’ team more than any other.”
Smith praised the impact the Ladies’ team has had, pointing to Currie’s success as the reason for its creation. “This event has played a big part in raising the profile for female riders,” he said.
“When we brought it in there were a lot of sceptics but the strength of female riders has gone up and up and even when someone like Hollie Doyle has a retainer commitment somewhere else you can bring in a rider like Nicola Currie and look what she’s done. She’s won the Silver Saddle.
“This is Nicola’s day in the sun, this will be one of her highest profile days and tomorrow the headlines will be all about her. It’s an opportunity for people to see how well she rides and how good she is.
“It’s been a brilliant day and fantastic to get it back after not having it last year. Credit to the sponsors for sticking by it in tough times. What a day it’s been.”