Bennett trades boxing gloves for life in the saddle

Dylan Bennett has found his feet with the Sue Grills team in Tamworth. Image – Bradley Photos.

Dylan Bennett, the son of accomplished country jockey Matthew Bennett, is paving his own path in the industry, with the three-kilogram claiming apprentice 19 wins into his young career. 

Still, there was a point in the 20-year-old’s young life where he needed to decide whether to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a jockey or continue fighting, with the promising boxer winning a State Title while medalling at the Australian Titles.

“My dad is a jockey, and everyone knows who he is, so they look after me. My mum was a trackwork rider for Chris Waller for six or seven years, so I was born into it,” Bennett said. 

“Still, it all came to me a bit later, and I was always pretty scared of horses.

“I wanted to be a professional boxer, and that’s the way I was headed, but I wanted to leave school.

“Mum said I needed a full-time job to leave school, and that’s how I ended up working with her, and I’m still doing it,” Bennett laughed.

From an early age, Bennett has been around some of the best in the industry, working with Chris Waller at Aquis Park before heading to Sydney, where he rode for the master trainer while learning from outgoing Racing NSW head jockey coach Corey Brown.

“I was born on the Gold Coast, and I lived there until I was 15 and worked for (Chris) Waller before I moved to Sydney to learn how to ride at around 16, and I stayed there for about three years,” Bennett said. 

“That’s where I started my apprenticeship; from there, I’ve been around Australia.” 

Since notching his first victory aboard the Mario Caltabiano-trained Dusky Dancer at Lismore in February, Bennett has worked for different Masters, bringing up wins at Morven, Roma, St George, Cunnamulla, Injune, and Springsure in Queensland and Inverell, Tamworth, and Gunnedah in NSW. 

On Brown’s advice, Bennett settled into life in Tamworth with champion trainer Sue Grills.

“I was just learning trackwork riding for a year or two in Rosehill, then Chris signed me up as an apprentice, and I went to apprentice school, and Corey Brown was teaching me how to ride, and he helped me so much,” Bennett said.  

“Once I was ready, Chris sent me to Brent Cavanough in Scone, and Brett sent me to Craig Smith in Roma.

“Corey suggested I would be a good apprentice for Sue, so I took that opportunity, and I’ve never looked back; we’re coming up on three or four months together.

“Sue has offered me that ongoing support that helps a lot, and I’ve been fortunate to get on a few nice horses.” 

Since moving to the Grills yard, the youngster has hit the ground running, riding a winner at Inverell in October before registering victories at Tamworth and Inverell in November.

Earlier this month, the young hoop helped Sue Grills to the 800th win of her career, guiding My Diamond Boy to victory in the 1250m Country Boosted Benchmark 58 Handicap at Gunnedah. 

“Tamworth is good,” Bennett said. 

“Sue is lovely, and when they are nice to you, it makes you enjoy your work.”

In terms of future goals, Bennett will leave no stone unturned as he looks to become the best apprentice in NSW. 

“For now, I just want to ride well and get to 50 winners in the country, and the main goal would be to win a (NSW) Country Apprentice’s title,” Bennett said. 

“In the long run, I want to be a champion apprentice in the metro areas and really make my mark as one of the best young jockeys.

“I am a very patient rider, and I’m still learning to race ride, but patience is my biggest strength.”

Bennett will get his chance to show off his credentials at Moree on Saturday, riding four chances on the Twilight Christmas program.