Meet the trailblazing French jockey so popular she needs bodyguard protection from fans

TRAILBLAZING French jockey Mickaelle Michel is so popular she needs bodyguard protection from her own fans.

But her mum wants her to quit and open a restaurant on the beach!

Michel, 25, has become a globe-trotting sensation after breaking down barriers in her home country before proving a mega hit in Japan.


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Brought up near Marseille, she became champion apprentice in France in 2018 before rocketing to superstardom in the Far East last year.

Michel set a new record after ridding 30 winners in ten weeks on a short-term licence in Japan.

British jockey Alan Munro and France's Ryan Curatolo shared the old benchmark of 29 winners – but they did it on three-month deals.

Michel was invited to Japan after catching the eye of leading owner-breeder Teurya Yoshida.

And her performances on the dirt quickly made her a huge hit with fans in a country obsessed with racing.

So much so that Michel – who went out there with agent and boyfriend Fred Spanu – needed her own bodyguards.

Michel told The Telegraph: "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.

"I said to Fred, ‘I can’t believe it. I want to come here, the atmosphere is amazing'.

"I have really fallen in love with the people, the culture, the country, the food, the races, the spectators.

"In France we miss these big crowds. The atmosphere in Japan is amazing. They didn’t care if I was a foreign jockey or a woman."

One person who did care if Michel was a jockey was her mum – who told her daughter to get a 'real job' instead.

Michel said: "My mum dislikes animals. I always wanted a dog but that was never going to happen.

"When they asked me at school what I wanted to do I said, 'horses'.

"My mum was against it, as she didn't think it was a real job and that I should concentrate on studying."

But when Michel turned 15 she showed two fingers up at her mum and started learning her craft with a local trainer.

Her rise from there was rapid.

She had her first ride and win in 2014 before landing a gig with a top trainer in 2017.

So what does her mum make of it now?

Michel said: "She is happy that I am fulfilling my dream. She is proud of me when I win races, but when I don't she says I should come and open a restaurant on the beach."

Well, you can't win 'em all.


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