By Jon Lees
Hong Kong: G1-winning jockey Harry Bentley will spend the first half of the British Flat turf season in the Far East after being granted a short-term licence by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Bentley, who had been riding in Dubai over the winter, will fly to Hong Kong on Friday to begin three weeks in quarantine ahead of his stint which will run from April 16 until the end of the season in July.
“It’s an opportunity which only arrived a couple of weeks ago when I was contacted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and it just seemed like a good time for me, to be honest,” said Bentley. “I didn’t have anything holding me back in the UK and it seemed to fit in with where I was at with my career.
“I would have been coming back this week to ride out if I wasn’t riding on World Cup night,” he added. “I had to put my thinking cap on and decide what I want to do and it just seems like a good opportunity.”
Bentley, 28, is best-known for his association with Limato, on whom he won both the July Cup and Prix de la Foret in 2016. He has ridden more than 1,000 winners, among them 41 at Group and Listed level.
Bentley rode 51 winners during last year’s curtailed Flat season when he was first-choice jockey for Ralph Beckett, an association that is now over.
Despite having gained widespread international experience from riding in France, Germany, Canada, the UAE and Qatar, and at the Breeders Cup meeting in the USA, Bentley has never before ridden in Hong Kong. “I’ve never even been to Hong Kong,” he said.
“But I’ve been keeping an eye on all the races and speaking to a few of the jockeys. It looks an ultra-competitive environment for jockeys, especially with Joao Moreira and Zac Purton dominating the ranks.
“I’m under no illusions how tough it will be but as a rider it can only be good experience for me. It’s another string to my bow – I’m 28 years old and it seems a good time to take a chance like this.”
He went on: “I have to complete 21 days’ quarantine when I won’t be allowed to leave my hotel room, which I will have to take on the chin.”
Bentley, who will be one of 23 jockeys on the Hong Kong roster, could have the chance to stay for longer if he is a success. “I am going there very open-minded, will take it all in and see how it goes and make a decision on the future further down the line,” he said.
“I wasn’t going to be riding for Ralph this season so that was another reason to take this opportunity. It would have been a more difficult decision for me if I had a big stable behind me coming into this season, but I didn’t. I was coming in freelance, so this just seemed right.”
• Visit the Hong Kong Jockey Club website