x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Dubai World Cup blues for Bentley but the apprentice maintains focus

The jockey will not be racing at the World Cup, so he will rather use the time to go to England and get acquainted with more trainers and get more work.

Harry Bentley has had an impressive campaign in the current UAE season, riding 16 winners.
Harry Bentley has had an impressive campaign in the current UAE season, riding 16 winners.

Harry Bentley, the teenage apprentice jockey, rode 16 winners this season but he will not get a ride on horse racing's richest day.

He is to fly back to the UK five days before the Dubai World Cup showpiece at Meydan Racecourse and will miss the event altogether.

As he leaves the UAE, the 18-year-old from Sussex is aware that he will soon enter one of the most precarious stages in a race rider's career - the transition from apprentice to full-fledged jockey.

As an apprentice Bentley claims a 3kg deduction from the total weight his mount carries in a race. But as he continues to win, that allowance will begin to reduce.

He has ridden 29 winners in total and when he hits 50 his claim will reduce to 1.5kg. There is a good possibility that by the time the next UAE season rolls around, Bentley will not have a claim at all. That is when the hard work will really begin.

"I've had an amazing season here in the UAE and it's a shame not to stay for the World Cup," he said. "But I'm not going to get a ride and I was advised to get back to England and start riding work for trainers. I want to start getting my face around so that trainers might consider me to ride their horses in races."

Bentley is attached to the yard of the Sussex-based trainer Gary Moore. "I will go back to Gary's yard and also ride out for other trainers like William Knight who gave me some rides last season," Bentley said. "It's important to show trainers that you are willing to put the work in and to travel in order to get race rides."

Bentley has earned positive reviews from trainers in the UAE and the UK. "He has been performing almost as a second jockey," said Satish Seemar, the Zabeel Stables trainer who employs Richard Mullen as his first rider. "I've been impressed and he has been a good addition to the team."

Knight was also enthusiastic about Bentley.

"He is a young guy with a good head on his shoulders with a good style and an ability to keep a horse balanced," he said after Bentley rode a double for him first time out last season. "He's also quite strong in a finish and hopefully has a good future ahead of him."

Bentley's stint in the UAE this season, which was arranged by Moore's son, Ryan, the three-time British Champion jockey, will have done him no harm in bolstering his burgeoning reputation.

He claimed Abu Dhabi's Listed HH President's Cup on Seemar's McCartney and rode a first winner at the Dubai International Racing Carnival on Navajo Chief.

He hit a 10.6 per cent strike rate from 151 rides - a figure any jockey would be pleased with - and has risen to fifth in the UAE Jockeys' Championship.

He has just four winners fewer than Richard Hills, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's premier jockey, and his winning rides have netted Dh965,000 for their connections.

But that success becomes history the moment his feet land on British soil, where a race can be found almost every day of the week if you are prepared to travel far enough.

"It's been an amazing season in the UAE," said Bentley, who as a youngster used to ride finishes on the arm of his parents' sofa while watching the television racing coverage. "I thought I would be riding work in the mornings and if I picked up a few rides pre-Carnival then I would be happy. The fact that I had some Carnival rides at all was amazing and riding a Carnival winner has just been the icing on the cake."

Bentley knows that as an apprentice it would be easy to become a victim of his own success.

"It will also get harder as I lose my claim," he said. "I will become a less attractive proposition to trainers who may prefer to use a more experienced jockey once I am riding off the same weight as everybody else.

"I just have to hope that by then I will have established a reputation as a solid jockey."