Local jockey is heading for the top

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

AYOUNG jockey heading for the top is Harry Bentley (20), who was brought up in West Sussex. He had taken the racing world by storm when he clocked up 17 winners at the Dubai Festival meeting in his first full year as an apprentice jockey in 2010.

Last month he passed a major landmark when he lost his apprentice claim when riding Karen George’s Howyadoingnotsobad to victory at Kempton, where he notched up a double.

The second win was for the prestigious Godolphin team when he rode a well-judged finish on Ustura win by a head.

Brought up in Storrington, Harry (20) had taken the brave decision not to stay at school for A levels.

He explained: “I had done well at GCSE level but felt that if I continued with my studies until I was 18, it would be too late. I’d been riding out for Horsham trainer Gary Moore when I was 15 and 16 and he encouraged me. I decided to givew it a go and see how things went and he took out my apprentice licence for me.”

Harry comes from a equestrian family where his parents, John and Amanda, supported his decision. His father is a former amateur jockey and trainer of Point-to-Pointers and Harry had gone through the ranks of pony racing at point to point meetings. His brother Ben, two years older, went on to ride in point to points.

“Mum and Dad have supported me all the way. I couldn’t have done all this without that,” he said.

His decision to leave Eastbourne College has reaped dividends for him in the saddle. In a highly competitive sphere, Harry finished third in the 2011 apprentice jockeys championships last turf season with 47 wins under his belt. He followed on by riding a winter campain in Dubai, where he could not claim a weight allowance this time, but still accumulated 10 wins.

“Every year my riding gets better and I will go to Dubai again this winter,” he added.

At last year’s Ebor meeting he rode Navajo Chief to victory for trainer Alan Jarvis and this season finished close second at Royal Ascot on a Godolphin horse.

“I’ve been asked to ride for owners like Pearl Bloodstock and Qtar Racing, who have horses with he biggest trainers. I can do eight stone with ease because I am naturally light-framed, so weight is not an issue at present. I realise I will probably fill out slightly when I get older,” he said.

Meanwhile he has been noticed and is getting an increasing number of rides for top trainers, having been booked by Roger Varian, Richard Hannon, Mick Channon, Andrew Balding and David Brown.

He rode the David Brown-trained Fire Eyes to victory at Thirsk, breaking the track record in July and followed up on the two-year-old colt to finish second in the Julia Graves Roses Stakes (Listed Race) at York two weeks ago.

“It’s really pleasing to be asked to ride for bigger trainers,” he said.

By the end of August Harry had notched up 24 winners this season, and placed on 56 other runners, giving him a respectable 12 per cent strike rate.

He has a base in Newmarket but still spends plenty of time at home in Storrington. His favourite way of relaxing is a game of golf round Hollingbury course outside Brighton.