Top jockey Andrea Atzeni has made a great start to the flat racing season but will be hoping to improve on his Royal Ascot record this week. The MS Amlin-sponsored Italian has won hundreds of races all around the world but has only registered one solitary winner at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting.
He said: “As professional jockeys we are very lucky to ride in quite a lot of places in the world, Hong Kong, Australia but Royal Ascot is like nothing else – you get the best horses with the best jockeys. What makes it so special is that it’s very, very tough to ride winners there – I’ve actually only ever had one winner.
“This year I’ve got some nice rides with Roger Varian and I’ve got a couple of horses for Sir Michael Stoute too. I’ve got plenty of good rides all week. It would be great to come out with a few winners.
“When you get to the Saturday after Ascot you are just mentally and physically drained. When you’re at big meeting with rides every day your mind never stops. Even when you go to bed at night you’re thinking about the following day’s racing so it’s non-stop.”
The glamorous meeting over four days at the Royal Berkshire course offers more than £6.5m in prize money and welcomes more than 500,000 people through the turnstiles.
Andrea is also looking beyond this week towards a tilt at the Jockeys’ Championship.
He said: “I’d love to have a go at the title if I get a chance – even this year. It’s going to be very difficult to beat Silvestre De Sousa but I will give it my best shot.”
His strike rate of rides to winners is currently at a healthy 22 per cent.
“Last year I was around 18 per cent, anything above 15 is good and above 20 is great. The season has only just started though,” he said. “Most of the time I am racing with a good chance, horses that are no longer than 10-1 in the betting.”
Andrea relies on a strong team around him to get the winners that his professionalism demands.
“I’m very lucky that I have my own driver and we fly quite a lot to meetings,’ He said. “The travelling is the really tough part of the game, it’s not the riding. You spend a lot of time in the car.
“If I haven’t done my homework and haven’t gone through the races before I will do that in the car. I go through the races, go through my rides and see how I’m going to run the race. Every horse is different and every horse has to be ridden differently.”
For the layman the thought of sitting on top of a thoroughbred horse travelling at 40mph is a difficult concept to grasp.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Andrea. “Especially if you’re lucky enough to ride good horses. It’s like driving a Ferrari, when you get in a Ferrari and you accelerate it gives you that kick. It’s adrenaline, excitement.
“In this game you have to be natural, you’ve either got it or you haven’t got it. You have to listen to a lot of people when you start out but I think most of it has to be natural. A lot of people helped but I tried to pick the best of each jockey. But every jockey has his own style so you have to be yourself.”