FRENCH ace Mickaelle Michel is ready to add some va va voom to the Shergar Cup.
The 26-year-old is the most decorated female rider across the Channel and will join Hayley Turner and Nicola Currie in the Ladies Team at Ascot.
But despite the glittering CV and 3lbs weight allowance females get in France, Michel reckons she’ll never truly make the cut on home soil.
She’s been forced to look further afield in the hope of picking up big race rides with her passport now holding stamps from Japan, Italy, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
Michel hopes one day French trainers might accept that females can cut the mustard on the big stage too.
She said: "I really want to stay in France, because we have very good horses, but I don’t think they are 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 situation in France for female jockeys is better now compared to three or four years ago.
“We work more and get more opportunities, but it is rare to see female jockeys ride in big races. But look at the big racing in the week, you do not see female jockeys riding in the Group 3, Group 2 or Group 1.
"The female jockeys in France love seeing Hollie Doyle win a Group 1 because it is great publicity for her, but also for every female jockey.
“Last week at Goodwood, I said 'Oh my gosh, Hollie Doyle has won a Group 1, it's crazy!
“In the UK you have famous female jockeys like Hollie, Josephine Gordon and Hayley Turner. In the US they have famous female jockeys, but in France we are a little bit late.
"Hollie 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."
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Attitudes might be steadily changing, but not quickly enough for Michel who is hoping to move to Japan next year to ride full time.
She previously held a short-term licence where she racked up an impressive 30 winners and is keen to head back.
And she’s been spending her time in quarantine ahead of the Shergar Cup learning the lingo to help pass the super strict exams.
Michel said: “My next goal is to win a Group 1 and also, I would also like to pass the JRA exam to become a jockey in Japan next year.
“I’ve been stuck in my hotel so I have been using the time to try and learn more Japanese. And of course watch a few films too.
“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."
It’s Michel’s first ride in Britain and she’s already called on the help of fellow countryman Soumillon for advice.
And she has the perfect teammate in Shergar Cup Queen Hayley Turner to call upon for advice too.
Turner is the most successful Shergar jockey of all time with eight winners and a whopping 297 points from 13 appearances.
Michel said: “I am very happy that Hayley is the captain. I know her and have ridden with her before.
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“And 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 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 and I spoke to Christophe Soumillon a few days ago and he has given me some advice about the track.
“I have a lot of experience riding everywhere and hope that I can help the team.”
Michel is the only overseas jockey at the Shergar Cup this summer with travel restrictions still causing issues.
But that was never going to stop the rider from making the trip across. She told her agent and boyfriend Frederic Spanu she wanted to ride at Ascot early in her career.
Michel explained: “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.
"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."
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