Harry Bentley finished last season in a relative flurry with a winner at the final two meetings but the 29-year-old is content to effectively start again in his first full Hong Kong campaign.
A Class One victory aboard Preciousship at the Sha Tin finale did the British jockey’s profile no harm in a jurisdiction where being a winner is all that matters to owners, but Bentley knows it will count for little if he doesn’t make the most of his opportunities early in the new term.
“I do feel like I’ve got to build up again, even though I got a little bit of momentum I feel like I’m very much starting from the beginning again but at least I know I can bang in a few winners,” he said.
“I was starting to gain a little bit of traction towards the end with a couple of winners and a nice Class One winner, so that was helping.
“I still feel new here and I’ve still got plenty to learn about the whole system but I definitely feel a little bit more settled.
“It’s nice to start the season off a level playing field with all the other guys and having had a little bit of experience.”
One of the few jockeys to escape Hong Kong in the off-season, Bentley is fresh after a break in France and he could not be keener as he chases his first winner of 2021-22.
His best hope of achieving that at Happy Valley on Wednesday night looks to rest on whether Joyful Win can overcome a big weight and unexposed four-year-olds Infinity Win and Party Warrior in the Class Four Middle Bay Handicap (1,000m).
After taking a few runs to find his feet, the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Joyful Win worked his way to the top of Class Four with two Valley victories over five furlongs and he looks to have returned in good order after moving well on his way to victory in a recent 1,200m all-weather trial.
Bentley should be able to position the gelding in his preferred spot close to the speed from barrier four in a contest where he will carry 132 pounds.
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“He looks to be the best of my three rides and I’m hopeful of a good performance,” Bentley said. “Obviously you’re quite exposed when you’re carrying that sort of weight and the newer horses with less weight are probably the ones that are going to be my biggest dangers. I think off his form he can be very competitive.”
Trainer David Hayes has high hopes for Infinity Win, who will be ridden by Zac Purton after finishing second on debut under Keith Yeung Ming-lun in July, while Party Warrior enters the race off the back of two close seconds from his two starts.
Bentley’s other rides come in the form of the Richard Gibson-trained Man Up in the second section of the Class Four Chung Hom Kok Handicap (1,200) and 43-start veteran Turin Redstar, who has his first run for Douglas Whyte in the Class Three Community Chest Cup (1,650m) with just 117 pounds on his back.
“I thought Man Up’s trial was pretty good actually. I was drawn on the outside which didn’t really help but I was quite pleased with how he went through the line and he feels to be in good spirits,” Bentley said.
“Obviously Turin Redstar is carrying a light weight so that’s always going to help but he probably needs to step-up on his recent form.”