Many might have found the prospect of having a first ride on turf in the Unibet Lincoln slightly daunting – but not Benoit De La Sayette, who looks booked for stardom following his faultless ride on Haqeeqy at Doncaster.
The 18-year-old has been making waves on the all-weather during the winter and when his name appeared next to Haqeeqy’s at Monday’s confirmation stage it looked a shrewd move from John Gosden, who now shares the licence with his son, Thady.
But while the winning rider was able to claim 7lb off the improving four-year-old, given the turn of foot he showed it probably made little difference to the result.
Brunch broke cover from the pack over a furlong out, but when Haqeeqy saw daylight he put the race to bed in a matter of strides, looking the proverbial Group horse in a handicap in the process.
The 9-2 shot – owned by Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum, whose father Sheikh Hamdan died earlier this week – won by a length and a half. Hortzadar was third, with Danyah fourth.
“It’s unbelievable and to have the support of these connections is a real thrill – I can’t thank everyone enough for legging me up,” the rider said.
“I wanted to follow the (William) Haggas horse (Johan), but he didn’t run so it was a blank canvas. He jumped beautifully, I got behind someone as I just wanted to get him switched off.
“Luckily enough a gap opened at the end which I wasn’t expecting, as I thought I was going to be trapped, but the turn of foot he showed was thrilling. To have a feeling like that, you can’t get better.
“I walked the track, like everyone, and we all knew where the best ground was, it was such a tight bunch so I was lucky enough to get a gap.”
The Gosdens also had winners at Kempton and in Dubai, meaning their new partnership has got off to a flying start.
“They let me know I had the ride on Monday and my face lit up when he told me,” said De La Sayette.
“I’m not really thinking about the champion apprentice title. I’m just thinking about my next ride, I just want to carry on riding winners and riding for wonderful trainers.
“I just want to do the best I can and prove what I can do, that’s pretty much it.
“What the boss has taught me is the cooler you are the better they will run, if you get a bit revvy that is when you can make mistakes. I just wanted to keep cool and get him switched off.
“To even be on the racecard, for it to be my first turf race it was all a bit ‘wow’, and a big boost to my confidence. To ride my first race on turf in such a big race, and then to win, it’s amazing really.
“My father was a champion amateur rider in France for a couple of years and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“I grew up on a horse, he came over to ride for Godolphin and I did the Pony Club circuit and then went pony racing at the age of nine.
“I can’t thank my parents enough, driving me around everywhere, they are the main reason I’m in the position I’m in. I went to Mr Gosden’s on work experience at 15 and I’ve been there ever since.”
He added: “I’m 18. It’s a dream start, to win the Lincoln, my first ride on turf, it’s a fairytale. I’ll probably wake up tomorrow thinking it was a dream.
“The Gosdens are so supportive, any slight mistake I make he’ll run me through it. I couldn’t ask for a better boss.”
Michael Dods was proud of the effort of Brunch in second and said: “He did everything right, if anything he might have got there a bit too soon, but the winner went past him in a matter of strides when he opened up.
“We were giving him 7lb when you take the jockey’s claim into account.
“We’ve no excuses, we’ve been beaten by a very good horse, I’m delighted with ours.
“We’ve lost little in defeat, we’ve been beaten by a Group horse. To win the Lincoln you’ve got to be a Group horse, look at Addeybb.
“You need to be just on the verge of going into Group races to win.”