Dubai: Harry Bentley was only 18 years old when, as an apprentice attached to Satish Seemar’s Zabeel Stables, he enjoyed a ground-breaking season in the UAE, riding 17 winners.
He called further attention to himself last season in the UAE when booting home 10 winners while competing against seasoned riders like Tadhg O’Shea, Royston Ffrench, Wayne Smith and Frankie Dettori.
Bentley rode out his apprentice claim last month in the UK, which cost him his job with Seemar, who traditionally employs a claimer as second jockey to his retained rider Richard Mullen.
However, Emirati handler Ali Rashid Al Raihe came to the rescue and offered the talented youngster an opportunity to ride for his three-time championship winning Grandstand Stables, where he will vie for rides with the stable’s No 1 jockey Ffrench and promising Emirati apprentice Saeed Al Mazrooei.
Now 20, and riding at the peak of his powers, Bentley wasted no time in repaying Al Raihie for his kindness by riding a brace of winners at Meydan’s first meeting of the new season on Thursday.
Bentley in effect won the last three races on the Emirates-sponsored card, including the feature race of the night on Doug Watson’s ageless campaigner Barbecue Eddie.
Watson was delighted to see the eight-year-old show strong early-season form and said: “I was a bit worried he might come up short with the trip but he loves this Tapeta surface and Harry did everything right.
“He’s relaxed so well over the last year and he’s a fun horse to have in the stable. He’s won three years in a row, one of our goals is to win four years in a row at the Carnival so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.”
Thirty minutes earlier Bently launched his treble aboard Al Raihe’s Rochdale, who was winning the 2,000-metre handicap sponsored by Skywards for the third year running. He was once again in the saddle aboard Garbah, also prepared by Al Raihe, in the concluding 1,200m handicap sponsored by Emirates Airline.
Bentley was thrilled to get off to a flyer and said: “This is an amazing night and it is great to be back. I am really pleased that Mr Al Raihe has taken me on this season and am looking forward to a busy campaign. We have plenty of nice horses and I was delighted to get the mount on one of the yard’s favourite horses [Rochdale].
“Everything went pretty much to plan and it is great to see the horse win this race again.”
Earlier in the evening, former four-time UAE champion trainer Satish Seemar fired an ominous warning to his rivals when winning the first two races on the card.
Demonstrating his distinctive flair, the master of Zabeel Stables began the evening by sending out the previously unraced Dubai Iconic to win the Emirates SkyCargo handicap over 1,400m and followed it up with Skycruiser’s victory in the Emirates Holidays Stakes.
Marc Monaghan was having his first ride in the UAE on Skycruiser and the Irish apprentice was delighted to win at the first asking.
“I could not have asked for a better start to my UAE career,” the 17-year-old from Neagh in Ireland said. “I had a good year in Ireland and this is a great opportunity to ride in Dubai. I am really looking forward to the season and hopefully win some more races and learn from the experience.”
A large crowd of race fans turned up to watch the first of 20 meetings that will be staged at Meydan this season, culminating in the Dubai World Cup on March 30, 2013.