Derby Festival 2020: Five First Time Derby Jockeys

Five jockeys will enjoy the thrill of riding in the Investec Derby for the first time on Saturday 4th July.

Harry Bentley (Max Vega), Ben Curtis (Highland Chief), David Egan (Gold Maze), Martin Harley (Worthily) and Tom Marquand (Khalifa Sat) will be hoping to emulate jockeys such as Mickael Barzalona and Padraig Beggy, who won the 2011 and 2017 renewals having never previously ridden in the great race.

Egan’s father, John, rode Snoqualmie Boy in the 2006 running and finished 16th out of 18. There are 16 runners on Saturday, so David will fancy his chances of at least faring no worse than him.

Bentley, 28, has been waiting longer than most for his opportunity and will partner Max Vega in Britain’s premier Classic, which forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

Max Vega is trained by Ralph Beckett, who is one of five trainers who will be having a runner in the race for the first time. The other quartet are Ed Walker (English King), William Muir (Pyledriver), Hugo Palmer (Emissary) and Jessica Harrington (Gold Maze).

Bentley said: “This is my eleventh 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’ 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, as 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.” 

Max Vega established himself as a leading staying two-year-old last season with an emphatic win in the Group 3 Godolphin Flying Star Zetland Stakes at Newmarket but is among the outsiders after finishing fifth on his return last month in the Unibet Classic Trial Stakes at Kempton.

Bentley said: “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 race 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.” 

Frankie Dettori boasts far more Derby experience than any other rider in the race. The 49-year-old, who took part in it for the first time 1992, will be riding in it for the 25th time. He partners English King, the likely favourite. 

Dettori took 15 attempts to win the Derby before scooping it for the first time aboard Authorized on 2007. He also won on Golden Horn in 2015. 

Other Derby-winning jockeys in action on Saturday will be Beggy (Wings Of Eagles – 2017), William Buick (Masar – 2018), Martin Dwyer (Sir Percy – 2006), Seamie Heffernan (Anthony Van Dyck last year) and Ryan Moore (Workforce – 2010 and Ruler Of The World – 2013).

Dwyer also rode in the 2007 renewal but has not taken part since. He will be riding for William Muir, who is his father-in-law.

Martin Dwyer reflects on what the Investec Derby means to him:

Courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series.

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