Harry Bentley is relishing the prospect of his first Derby ride this weekend, when he will partner Max Vega in the Investec-sponsored showpiece at Epsom.
The Ralph Beckett-trained colt won two of his three starts last season, and was particularly impressive in the last of them, with Bentley on board in the Zetland Stakes at Newmarket.
He had to settle for fifth place on his reappearance at Kempton – but that race has already thrown up one serious Derby candidate, with Pyledriver winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Bentley, 28, has been waiting longer than most for his opportunity and finally gets his chance in the premier Classic, a race which forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
Bentley said: “This is my 11th season, so it has taken a while, and it’s great to finally get a ride in the race. It’s the race which everybody aspires to ride in and holds so much gravitas.
“It’s the biggest race in the country, arguably the world, and rides do not come up in it very often. It’s a shame for everyone that the crowds and atmosphere won’t be there, but once the gates open the race itself will be as competitive as ever.”
Bentley has ridden almost 500 winners in Britain – 35 of them in Group or Listed company – and has enjoyed other major successes around the world.
On the challenges presented by Epsom, he said: “It would have to be one of the most difficult tracks to ride, especially over a mile and a half, because you’ve got so much to contend with.
“You are climbing for a couple of furlongs before you get to the top, then you are on a left-hand bend and it’s quite steep downhill. The camber in the straight is always a big part as it rolls away to the left.
“It takes a certain horse to act at Epsom – one that can handle all the idiosyncrasies and be incredibly balanced and on an even keel. It’s what makes the Derby such a big test and, of course, you are taking on the best three-year-olds there are to offer.”
He added: “I’m under no illusions. He’s not a short-priced runner, but I’m hoping for a good performance. On his two-year-old form, he’s a very good horse and he was very impressive in the Zetland. The trip is no concern – and while he’s not the biggest, he is nimble.
“The Kempton race was run at a muddling pace, and the mile and a quarter was probably a bit too sharp for him. I’ve sat on him at home since, and he’s in good form. He’d been off a long time before that return run, and it will have helped bow away the cobwebs.”