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Humphrey Bogart won’t fluff lines in Derby, says Sean Levey

2 Jun 2016

Jockey tells us all about his first ride in the summer showpiece at Epsom on Saturday

Levey says his first ride in the Investec Derby is not giving him any sleepless nights. Picture courtesy of

Sean Levey will have his first ride in the Investec Derby on Saturday aboard the Richard Hannon-trained Humphrey Bogart.

The colt is owned by Chelsea Thoroughbreds, a racehorse ownership club who name their horses after famous film stars and movie characters.

Levey, 28, born in Swaziland, took time out of his schedule this week to tell us more about his mount and his hopes of victory in the world’s most famous Flat race.

This will be your first ride in the Derby. Is it giving you sleepless nights?

It’s different for everyone but I’ve never been bothered by what kind of race I’m riding, or where. I’ve been in the hot seat before and ridden in a lot of  big races – all the Classics in Ireland, Group 1s at Ascot and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. I had a pacemaker role in the Arc [on Cornish in 2009] but there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that sort of thing. I’ve been there, done that . But that’s not to say I’m excited. It’s a very hard race to get a ride in.

What attributes does a Derby winner require?

I’ve always thought you need a horse with three things – speed, very good balance and a good attitude. Humphrey ticks all those boxes. There are a lot of green horses in this year’s field, nowhere near as battle-hardened as he is. There doesn’t look much between an awful lot of them and it could get congested. You need a streetwise horse with speed to get you out of trouble and I know he has the pace to take me where I need to be. He’s also very versatile regards ground.

How about stamina? Will he get the trip?

Last year you would not have thought so, but over the winter he’s filled his frame, grown up and matured. It’s made him a hell of a lot better and running him over a mile and quarter plus has brought out the best in him. He stayed on well when winning over an extended mile and a three at Lingfield and has clearly inherited some of the stamina on the dam’s side of his pedigree.

Tell us what Humphrey Bogart is like at home

He’s always been a bit of character. Every day he’s got his head over the door, neighing at you. He’s ready to get up and go every morning. You could say he’s nearly overly genuine –  he can’t wait to get on the gallops and give you 110 per cent.  He follows a lead horse every day, so that he doesn’t do too much. On his own, he’d be challenging himself.

Is he is in a good place going into the weekend?

We rarely work him because he keeps himself fit, but I’ve sat on him out every day since his win at Lingfield. His coat looks amazing, he’s full of himself, I could not knock not him for anything – it’s all gone perfect.

Epsom is renowned as a challenge for jockeys with its twists, turns and cambers. What do you make of it?

It is a tricky old course but I’ve ridden there loads of times and always enjoyed riding around there. It’s different to most, but but once you know the track it makes it ten times easier.

Humphrey Bogart has already run at Epsom – is that a big advantage?

He ran really well there when a neck second to So Mi Dar in the Derby Trial in April. So Mi Dar obviously improved a bit when winning the Musidora impressively next time but I think Humphrey has improved as well. His experience of the track has to be a plus, and going back there he can only handle it better a second time. Once a horse been around there, they learn and become comfortable with it. They can handle it that much better the next time.

Tell us a bit more about Chelsea Thoroughbreds, the syndicate who own Humphrey Bogart

They are a brilliant bunch of lads who sponsor me as well. I’ve ridden a few winners for them now and they are a great laugh. Humphrey will be their first Derby runner and it’s as exciting for them as it is for me.

Will you have many family and friends at the track cheering you on?

My Dad, Mick, who was born in Ireland but grew up in Croydon, and I think other uncles and cousins from Croydon will go, plus my girlfriend. My mum is in Ireland and will not be coming over – she usually does for Royal Ascot.

You spent about eight years at Ballydoyle. What was that like?

I started there part-time, when still at school, and rode there for good bit of my apprenticeship. It was a privilege and Aidan [O’Brien] was amazing, which he is with everyone there. The experience I got was second to none and I just moved here for few a more opportunities and it has worked out for me. But my time there was brilliant.

Which horses did you sit on?

Through the year I’d have ended up on everything. You ride them at two and watch them progress into a Derby horse, or not a Derby horse.

Final question: who’s going to win the 2016 Investec Derby?

We are all scratching our heads and I don’t think anyone can say what horse is going to win. I think everyone is going to be turning up with expectations of winning. There’s not a lot between them, is there? It’s certainly not like a couple of years ago when everyone knew Australia was going to win. One I do think is capable of running well is Port Douglas. That horse has a lot of experience and he ran a big race on his return at Chester, but I wouldn’t swap Humphrey for anything.