Dunadry jockey Sammy Jo Bell bags Shergar Cup at Ascot
Sammy Jo Bell made the most of her late call-up for the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup as she bagged the prize for the leading rider on the day and spearheaded a memorable first success for the Girls team in the Ascot competition.
Bell, who has emerged as one of the apprentice finds of the season, was recruited as a late replacement for the injured Cathy Gannon earlier this week and the 3lb claimer grasped the opportunity with both hands to ride a double on the day.
Royal Signaller (8-1) saw Bell notch her first ever winner at the Berkshire venue as she produced the Mick Appleby-trained runner with a perfectly-timed challenge to see off Buckland by a length in the Stayers event.
Bell then doubled her tally aboard the Richard Hannon-trained Shell Bay (6-1), who kept on inside the final furlong of the Shergar Cup Classic to see off Perestroika by three-quarters of a length.
The rider also bagged fourth place on Alfred Hutchinson in the Mile contest, with the crucial five points ensuring Bell beat off the likes of Kerrin McEvoy and Jamie Spencer, who also rode a double, to take home the Alistair Haggis Silver Saddle award for the top jockey on the day.
Bell said: "This is definitely the best day of my career
"The season has gone absolutely brilliantly, the boss (Richard Fahey) has been brilliant and my agent (Richard Hale) has done a great job.
"Also thanks must go to all of the owners.
"Two days ago I never imagined I would be riding here so to have two winners is amazing.
"It just makes life and all the hard work worthwhile - days like this are what it's all about."
Bell's two wins combined with captain Emma-Jayne Wilson's success aboard Missed Call in the Shergar Cup Challenge saw the Girls team head into the closing Sprint event with a narrow advantage over the Rest of the World side.
While Wilson had to settle for fourth on Primrose Valley, Hayley Turner's second place on Squats saw the Girls squad emerge victorious overall.
Bell added: "The two other girls in the team have been absolutely brilliant and we talked form and tactics.
"There's been great teamwork which has been really good, even though we were obviously trying to ride the winners ourselves.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet and we might well have a party when we get home."
Wilson's short-head verdict aboard Missed Call was judged the best ride of the day by an appointed panel at Ascot and the Canadian jockey, who rode two winners at last year's meeting, was thrilled to see the Girls team finally emerge on top after they lost out to Europe by just a point in 2014.
She said: "With the success we had last year, apparently coming back we had something to prove.
"I hope that shuts up the doubters. Sammy Jo did a brilliant job as an apprentice on the day and Hayley is the flagship female jockey in this country.
"I'm honoured every time Ascot invite me to come here as well as representing women in sport.
"I don't see how anyone could argue that female jockeys aren't as good or even better than male jockeys now - 80 (points to) 67 - done and dusted!"
Turner was taking part in her ninth Shergar Cup and while she was thrilled with the victory, she also spared a thought for the sidelined Gannon.
She said: "What a fantastic day! It's my ninth year and it's the first time we've actually won.
"It's just brilliant, it's fantastic. I'm so pleased. Sammy Jo has done really well.
"It's a shame for Cathy, who's sat at home watching, as she worked really hard to get on the team and it was taken off her at the last minute, but it's worked out well for Sammy."
McEvoy had struck first gold for the Rest of the World team as he steered Secretinthepark (5-1) to victory in the opening Shergar Cup Dash while Spencer was on the mark aboard Halation (5-1) in the Mile and Moonraker (8-1) in the closing Sprint.
Spencer's double combined with a couple thirds from Pat Smullen on Dutch Masterpiece in the opener and Triple Dip in the Classic as well as Graham's Lee seconds on Elbereth in the Challenge and Earth Drummer in the Mile ensured the Great Britain and Ireland team took the runner-up prize with 67 points.
The Rest of the World squad finished third with 66 points while the European team, comprising of captain Oliver Peslier, Vincent Cheminaud and Adrie De Vries, finished last with just 27 points on the board.
Belfast Telegraph Digital