IF you have never heard of Mickaelle Michel then you need to catch up – because the rest of the world most certainly has.
So popular in Japan that she needed bodyguard protection from fans, Michel, 26, makes her big-race UK debut this weekend.
Michel will compete on the Ladies Team alongside the likes of Hayley Turner in the prestigious Shergar Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
It marks another step on the career ladder for this ultra talented French jockey, who broke down barriers in her own country before proving a hit in the Far East.
Oozing that typical French class and charisma, she has rocketed up the racing ranks thanks in part to the guidance of her agent and boyfriend Frederic Spanu.
He knew he was onto a winner straight away.
Spanu saw Michel in her very first race as a jockey in Paris and came away saying: "Wow."
The pair struck up a friendship, then a personal and professional relationship that works perfectly well for them.
Speaking of that first encounter, Spanu told At The Races: "When I first met her three-and-a-half years ago I saw something in the race.
"I said, 'wow'. Maybe she is a future superstar.
"I spoke about her with the media and many journalists told me, 'you are crazy. Really, are you sure?'
"I told them to believe me. I said she would be one for the future, for the really big races around the world."
Spanu should have done the lottery that night because his bold prediction is well on the way to becoming 100 per cent true.
Not that that has stopped some tough love between the pair though.
A former jockey, Spanu knows the rigours of constant dieting, travel and the pressure to succeed.
Michel said: "We speak every time, before and after races. If I do something good or bad, he will tell me.
"He can be very, very hard! I cry a lot sometimes after races. But if he wasn't here with me my career would not have been the same."
Michel hit the big time in Japan when she rode a whopping 30 winners in just ten weeks on a short-term licence there.
But she was an even bigger success with punters.
NEEDED BODYGUARD PROTECTION FROM FANS
She said: "Everyone was very happy and they seemed to like me as I spent hours signing autographs. So we had a good feeling about Japan.
"I was recognised, and suddenly I couldn’t walk anywhere without people asking me for autographs.
"They gave me bodyguards, it was crazy."
Michel said it instantly felt like home – until the bizarre topic of sharing showers with male jockeys came up.
Fortunately, everyone was very respectful and there were no issues, but it still made for another change to overcome.
Michel said: "It's amazing there. The country is so safe and the races are fantastic.
"It was a really good atmosphere, the horses are so strong and fast. I can't wait to go back there.
"It was still a big challenge, though. Nobody spoke English there – just asking for food was very difficult!
OFFERS OF THE DAY
William Hill: Bet £10 Get £40 – £30 in Free Sports Bets + £10 Casino Bonus – CLAIM HERE
Betfair – Bet £5 Get £20 In Free Bets – CLAIM HERE
Sky Bet: Get £30 in Free Bets, when you place any bet – CLAIM HERE
Paddy Power: £20 Risk Free Bet – CLAIM HERE
William Hill: 18+. Play Safe. New customers using promo code M40 only. 1x per customer. Min £/€10 bet. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Free bets of 2 x £/€15 issued after first qualifying bet settles. Max £/€10 Bonus. 35x wagering requirement. Max redeemable bonus: £25. Casino bonus expires after 72 hours. UK & Eire only. Additional T&Cs, including free-bet, game, location, payment method and stake contributions apply. Begambleaware.org
Betfair – Min £5 bet on the SBK, min odds 1.5 (1/2). Rewards valid for 7 days. Free bets must be placed at min odds of 1.5 (1/2). Exchange free bet limited to certain markets. Payment restrictions apply. 18+ T&Cs Apply. Begambleaware.org
Sky Bet: NEW CUSTOMERS ONLY,FIRST SINGLE & E/W BET ONLY, 5p MINIMUM STAKE, 3 x £10 BET TOKENS. FREE BET STAKES NOT INCLUDED IN RETURNS. FREE BETS EXCLUDE VIRTUALS. FREE BETS ARE NON WITHDRAWABLE. NO FREE BET EXPIRY. ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS AND FURTHER T&CS APPLY. 18+ BEGAMBLEAWARE.ORG
Paddy Power: New customers only. Place your FIRST bet on any sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using Cards or Apple Pay will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Paddy's Rewards Club: Get a £10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £10+. T&Cs apply. 18+ Begambleaware.org
"We made rules for taking a shower because the showers were mixed with with males, I was alone just one female jockey – it was hard for me but them also.
"They had to share the showers, the food as well – but it was good!"
Michel will be hoping the only sharing she does this weekend will be top honours with the rest of the Ladies Team at Ascot.
FREE BETS GET OVER £2,000 IN SIGN UP OFFERS HERE
Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org
Remember to gamble responsibly
A responsible gambler is someone who:
- Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
- Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
- Never chases their losses
- Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
- Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
- Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
Source: Read Full Article