THREE years after Navajo Chief’s Ebor festival victory helped to launch the career of Harry Bentley, the young tyro returns to York today as one of the new faces of Flat racing.
Second in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas on Lightning Thunder, which will be a major player in Friday’s Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Bentley is now an integral part of Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing which is challenging the Coolmore, Juddmonte and Godolphin breeding and ownership operations.
After partnering Gamesome in today’s Betbright Sprint, the centrepiece of York’s annual Macmillan charity day, the young jockey will don Qatar Racing’s crimson silks with gold tassels and partner Kevin Ryan’s unraced Pipe Bomb in the Reg Griffin Maiden Stakes.
Given the ambition of the owners, and the form of Ryan as he prepares to saddle Qatar Racing’s Hot Streak in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes at the Royal meeting, Pipe Bomb is unlikely to be making up the numbers.
Nor will his jockey. Born in Kettering, his family then moved to Sussex where he came under the shrewd tutelage of the top trainer Gary Moore – the man responsible for Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire de Grugy and guiding the riding careers of his children Ryan, Jamie and Hayley.
“Gary does not stop working. You could never get above yourself or you would be put back in your place,” said Bentley who celebrated his 21st birthday on Tuesday.
“He would make you work for your rides. If you were late, or didn’t muck out your horses, you knew about it.
“When I had had a few rides, he was very gracious to suggest that I go freelance and ride out for a few more trainers.”
Moore’s blessing meant Bentley, still only 18, could partner Navajo Chief to victory on Ebor day in 2011, a victory that caught the eye of Qatar Racing boss David Redvers.
“It was a big day for me. It was the Ebor meeting and on Channel Four. Saturdays, big meetings; wins like this raise your profile,” recalled the rider.
“It is why Lightning Thunder has been so good to me. You could say she was slightly unlucky at Newmarket, but the Irish Guineas was a lot more decisive – Marvellous had three lengths in hand.
“All you need is one horse to get going and I hope she will be the one if she can win the Coronation – it would be nice to get a big Group One on the board.”
In the meantime, Bentley is grateful that he has a solid book of five rides today.
One of the minor frustrations with his jobs is that he cannot make riding arrangements until Qatar’s No 1 jockey Jamie Spencer has decided his own plans.
It means it is difficult to acquire spare rides that help to accumulate the winners.
However, he is also appreciative that such high-profile owners have given him an opportunity and that they are only going to become more influential in the years to come.
Pres Rapide ran himself into Malton-based John Quinn’s juvenile squad for Royal Ascot with a comfortable victory on Knavesmire yesterday.
Ridden by Phil Makin, the winner holds an entry in the Norfolk Stakes and Quinn said: “He’s got six days to get over this. I told Phil not to blast him out and he’ll benefit a lot from that.”
Also Royal Ascot-bound is Nawton trainer David O’Meara’s That Is The Spirit who will put his unbeaten record on the line in the Jersey Stakes on Wednesday under The Yorkshire Post columnist Daniel Tudhope.
Meanwhile Robin Bastiman hopes Borderlescott – now 12 years young – can defy his veteran status in the £100,000 William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh.
Interview with Paul Hanagan: See Back Page.