Harry Bentley on the mark at Happy Valley

Harry Bentley opened his account in Hong Kong on Wednesday, steering Vincy to victory at Happy Valley.

Bentley was riding at just his second meeting since his move to Hong Kong, and his first at the distinctive track, as he teamed up with the Douglas Whyte-trained Vincy to claim the 11-furlong Pottinger Handicap.

“To come here to Happy Valley and win on my first ride is fantastic – it’s an amazing place,” said Bentley.

“He (Vincy) jumped nicely enough and I was always happy with where I was positioned. I was able to follow Joao Moreira around and there was probably no better place to be.

“He hit a bit of a flat spot and I had to wind him up a bit, but three furlongs out he started to travel well with me and I was very happy with how we came home down the outside.

“Douglas (Whyte) has been fantastic. In my first two meetings here he’s given me a good bit of support and I’m really appreciative of those opportunities coming from someone like him.

“I was able to ride out for him on the first morning that I was here before racing at Sha Tin last Saturday and he spent time with me to walk the track.

“I know nothing about the place and he’s provided me with some really valuable insight. He’s a multiple champion jockey, so there’s no better man to get instructions off.”

Harry Bentley raring to go for Hong Kong debut

Harry Bentley will make a high-profile start to his spell in Hong Kong as he has six rides booked for Saturday’s meeting at Sha Tin.

After completing his mandatory 21-day Covid quarantine, Bentley is in demand as he kicks off a stint in Hong Kong, which is due to run to the end of the season in July.

Bentley will have his first ride aboard Telecom Missile in the six-furlong opener for trainer Dennis Yip, before partnering two for Douglas Whyte and one apiece for Frankie Lor, Michael Chang and Tony Cruz.

He said: “It was definitely a surprise, but a very welcome surprise, I’ve already said it a few times, but I always really wanted to come out here at one stage and give it a go because I feel like I fit the mould quite well, I’ve got some good international experience and my weight’s really good.

Harry Bentley will be in action at Sha Tin on Saturday
Harry Bentley will be in action at Sha Tin on Saturday (PA)

“I’m chomping at the bit, I feel good and obviously I haven’t sat on a horse since I’ve been here which is close to a month now, but that won’t be a problem and now seems the perfect time to give it a go, I have good experience behind me but I’m still quite young also.

“I’m under no illusions in how competitive this place is, it’s a very good pool of jockeys to compete against and I’m managing my expectations, but at the same time I want to give it my all – you have to be confident in your own abilities.

“If I came in here with no confidence, I may as well not bother, I’m definitely coming in with managed expectations, but at the same time I’m confident in my abilities.”

I’ve been abroad every single year since I started riding for the last 11 seasons

The 28-year-old is a six-times champion jockey in Qatar, but counts rides in France, Germany, Canada, America and Dubai on his CV.

He said: “I started going away to the Middle East when I was only 18 years old and I’ve been abroad every single year since I started riding for the last 11 seasons.

“I’ve ridden a lot in Dubai and Qatar, but also all around the Middle East in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.”

“I had a great time in Qatar and I do think my experience from there will stand me in good stead because it’s quite a small oval track which is only around a mile around, it’s not quite as tight as Happy Valley, but it’s a tight track where it’s very pace and speed dependent.

“You have to be very positive from the stalls and I think that’ll give me a bit of an edge rather than having only arrived with experience from the United Kingdom.”

Harry Bentley enjoyed Group One glory with Limato
Harry Bentley enjoyed Group One glory with Limato (Simon Cooper/PA)

Bentley began his career with Gary Moore, riding his first winner in 2010, and he enjoyed a fruitful association with the Henry Candy-trained Limato a few seasons ago, winning the July Cup and Prix de la Foret in 2016.

“I think he (Limato) was very important for my career. It’s always good to be able to perform on the big stage in Group Ones and he was definitely important for me and my breakthrough winning Group Ones but not only that, he was just such a good horse to be associated with,” he said.

Ryan Moore, William Buick and Silvestre de Sousa have all ridden in Hong Kong, and Bentley has had the benefit of their advice ahead of his Sha Tin debut.

He added: “I spoke at length with Ryan Moore, I’ve known him for a while through riding and I was apprentice to his father Gary and the reason I was first ever able to go to Dubai was because Ryan helped me get over there.”