ITV racing presenter Leonna Mayor brushes off the trolls to star in coverage of Epsom Derby

AS one of five children, Leonna Mayor is used to fighting to get her voice heard.

But this weekend she can expect two million people to hang on her every word as she makes her racing debut on ITV1.


From being a jockey to posing in lads' mags as the 'world's sexiest jockey' to holding her own with Ed Chamberlin and Co, Leonna brings a fresh edge to coverage that can sometimes get trapped a bit in its own bubble.

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About time too.

Telly bosses clearly think racing is in need of a spruce-up, with former Love Island star Chris Hughes a regular on big-race coverage too.

But this is the social media age and anyone who thinks can differently can let them know.

So how does Leonna, 30, from Stoke-on-Trent, feel with sometimes getting online abuse?

She told SunSport: "Not sometimes. A lot of times.

"I think I'm quite a strong person, I'm quite black and white but social media is awful at times.

“People can criticise my accent or what I’m saying at times but I just think ‘oh, shut up’.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwFNCbKB0FI/

A post shared by ♛Leonna Mayor♛ (@leonnamayor)

"ITV are not making racing a bubble, we want everyone to come racing or enjoy the coverage at home, whether they want to back a horse or not."

Perhaps Leonna's time as an up-and-coming jockey toughened her up.

Constant dieting, the dangers of race-riding and mile after mile up and down the country for not much money can add a few premature grey hairs.

Leonna packed it all in in 2012 at the same time she had a gig on William Hill's in-house TV service.

That audience is dwarfed completely by those who will tune into ITV's coverage of the Cazoo Derby Festival this weekend.

But even then she recalls the nerves she felt before going in front of the camera.


https://www.instagram.com/p/CMKH0Q8Bgho/

A post shared by ♛Leonna Mayor♛ (@leonnamayor)

Leonna said: "People say I'm natural now but I never used to be, I got so nervous. I thought I wasn't set up for TV.

"I would ring up the producer a couple of days before saying I'm so nervous and I can't do it.

"They kept pushing me and I got better and better but my nerves were horrendous.

"Three days before a shift and I'd feel sick."

Quite the journey then to go from her first Opening Show appearance on ITV4 last September to part of the main line-up for one of racing's most prestigious events.

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A post shared by ♛Leonna Mayor♛ (@leonnamayor)

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A post shared by ♛Leonna Mayor♛ (@leonnamayor)

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj2gPypn0m4/

A post shared by ♛Leonna Mayor♛ (@leonnamayor)

Not that this is the end of the road, though.

Leonna added: "Ed is a brilliant mentor, he knows what to say to make you feel relaxed. Francesca Cumani is the same.

"But one day I’d love to be one of the main anchors.

"I am happy to pundit but I like broadcasting and being in control of the conversation."

Few things in racing are certainties – but this looks like being one.

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