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From work experience to the winner’s enclosure: apprentice wins feature in his first race on turf *H&H Plus*


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  • The teenager only found out he was riding in the feature race at Doncaster five days earlier...

    THE traditional curtain-raiser to the summer Flat season, the £100,000 Unibet Lincoln at Doncaster, was won by a teenage jockey riding in his first race on the turf.

    The 18-year-old apprentice, Benoit de la Sayette, produced a masterful performance aboard the John and Thady Gosden-trained Haqeeqy to produce a “fairytale” finish and launch what looks set to be a stellar career as a jockey.

    “To have a feeling like that, you can’t get better,” said the jockey, who joined the Gosden stables for work experience aged 15.

    “What I’ve learnt and what the boss has taught me is that the cooler you are on the horse, the better they will run. I wanted to stay as cool as I can. It’s a dream come true, a fairytale.”

    It’s been 29 years since John Gosden had an apprentice jockey but he put his faith in Benoit de la Sayette, who arrived after coming through the pony racing circuit. The teenager had notched up nine winners in his career so far and he only found out he was riding in the feature race at Doncaster five days earlier.

    “It’s something I’ve had on my mind since a young boy so for it [a big win] to come so early – I’m over the moon,” said Benoit, whose father Geoffrey de la Sayette was a champion amateur jockey in France. “I have to thank everybody for giving me this chance, including the boss [John Gosden] and Shadwell – without them, nothing is possible.

    “I was scared that I was just too trapped in the pack and the gap wouldn’t come, but as soon as I found the gap Haqeeqy just took off and it was an amazing feeling.

    “To have such positive people behind me giving me such amazing chances, it’s unbelievable,” added Benoit, who was riding in the colours of Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum, daughter of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who died earlier in the week.

    “I’m just giving it the best shot I can.”

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    Read this story, plus Amy Mathieson’s report from the Dubai World Cup and Marcus Armytage’s analysis of the action from Newbury, in this Thursday’s issue of the magazine (1 April, 2021)

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