The agonising moment I faced the jockey who stole my husband on live television: Channel 4 racing host’s affair heartbreak
- Emma Spencer was working away from home when husband started affair
- Jamie Spencer invited fellow jockey Hayley Turner back to family mansion
- Racing correspondent Emma now faces interviewing pair live on television
- The 36-year-old could speak with them after race at Royal Ascot next week
It is a tale straight from the pages of a Jilly Cooper bonkbuster.
A champion jockey cheats on his beautiful blonde wife – a top racing correspondent – with Britain’s best woman jockey, who also happens to be his training partner.
And, of course, he gets found out.
Emma Spencer, the glamorous face of flat racing on Channel 4, was filming away from home when her husband Jamie Spencer invited racing pin-up Hayley Turner back to the six-bedroom family mansion in Newmarket.
The pair – who both worked with the Queen’s trainer Michael Bell – were already close, but this time Jamie broke the marriage vows he made five years earlier.
In the horsey set, which is notoriously incestuous and riven with gossip, nothing stays secret for long and Emma soon learned of the tryst.
Headstrong and utterly loyal, she was incandescent at her husband’s betrayal and demanded a divorce.
‘Trust is, and always has been, a very big thing for me in my life,’ she says, sadly, as we discuss the affair over lunch at Newmarket. ‘If that is broken it is very difficult for me to go back.’
So it was understandably distressing when, in the bitter aftermath of the affair in 2010, she was asked to interview Miss Turner live on air after a 40-1 win; a request that would strike many as insensitive if not downright astonishing.
But she point-blank refused to speak to her rival and Channel 4 bosses drafted in a replacement at the last minute.
It was some time before Emma conquered this understandable reluctance, but she has since interviewed Hayley on camera and now says: ‘Post-race interviews are part of my job with Channel 4 and that is what I had to keep uppermost in my mind – personal feelings had to be put aside.’
Someone who is instinctively discreet, it took Emma the best part of four years to steady herself in the face of a very public humiliation – and only now is she willing to talk about it.
‘I wanted to avoid any unnecessary tensions on screen and with my marriage break-up still raw, one of my colleagues stood in for me.’
Now the three players in this sad drama are to be thrown back together at Royal Ascot, with Jamie and Hayley riding in the hope of a place in the Winners’ Enclosure and Emma waiting by the side of the track to interview whomever triumphs. It has the potential to be rather awkward, particularly given Emma’s unguarded comments.
‘It remains difficult between Hayley and I’, she said recently, adding: ‘I don’t have anything to do with her. She does her riding and I do my work. We don’t speak and I have no difficulties with that.’
It is a far cry from the days when Jamie and Emma were dubbed the ‘Posh and Becks’ of racing.
Doyens of racing’s hard-partying social scene, they shared a £2million mansion, Grange House Stables, in Newmarket, Suffolk, with their three children – now eight, seven, and five.
Emma, the Uppingham-educated daughter of legendary 80s gambler Jack Ramsden, says: ‘Jamie had a plane and one day, on my birthday, I had to get to Haydock Park – which is always log-jammed with traffic – to cover a race. As there’s a landing area at the course, Jamie told me I could take the plane.’
It was one of many larks they enjoyed together, but four years ago cracks began to appear, and the burgeoning friendship between Jamie and Hayley, 31, developed into a full-blown affair. It is a matter of enduring regret for Jamie, 32, regarded on the circuit as a ‘wild’ Irishman who is nevertheless utterly devoted to his children.
Hayley Turner (above) and Jamie split up soon after the affair was discovered
He has previously said: ‘I made a monumental error of judgment and now have to live with it. What I did is hard to explain. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of the catastrophic consequences of my stupidity. It’s hard, day in, day out.’
He went on to say: ‘I found the one person, but overnight it was all gone. Some evenings I think hard about it and can never find the reason why it happened. A huge error of judgment cost me all the things I wanted from a young age. A day doesn’t go by without me thinking about it.’
Emma, however, is adamant that the marriage is over for good. She says she would never consider another relationship with a jockey, adding: ‘I was 23 when I met Jamie. Dating and marrying a jockey – or someone in horse racing – seemed inevitable at that stage in my life.
‘But it is a very close-knit and gossipy world. Everyone knows your business and that can be tough when you are going through a very difficult situation. I want to find someone outside this business.
‘Maybe Mr Right is out there for me somewhere. It’s fair to say I am paddling my own canoe at the moment, but I hope that one day I will find someone special. I am extra cautious about any relationship because of the children. I wouldn’t introduce them to anyone I was having a relationship with until I was very sure it was a long-term thing.’
Most women would feel a sense of bitterness at being forced to watch their husband’s mistress continue to compete alongside him.
And it is telling that while Emma insists she has now ‘moved on’, she most certainly does not wish to be friends with the woman who wrecked her marriage.
But nor does she want to confront Hayley. ‘No, I have never discussed what happened with her,’ she says softly. ‘What would it achieve? I’m not a confrontational person and I don’t see the point in holding a grudge.’
So if that means congratulating Hayley on a win next week, Emma says she will take it in her stride. ‘It would be unprofessional to let outside factors get in the way, I have moved on,’ she says.
‘It’s all too easy for people to tune into racing and assume that I am the token blonde, that I’m some kind of bimbo. But I’ve been brought up in this world, my parents were successful trainers and I know a lot about this business.
‘I work incredibly hard at being good at my job and looking after my children, those are my priorities.’ Emma insists she and her former husband are now on good terms, saying: ‘Of course when he is in a race I will be cheering him on.’
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