Andrea Atzeni has had another fantastic flat racing season – and it could soon get even better. The MS Amlin-sponsored jockey has enjoyed a world-class 19 per cent strike rate so far this season, with more than 70 winners and £2.4m in prize money.
“It’s been a great season so far,” he said. “Six group one winners and I should get close to 100 winners for the year again – and that’s always my target.”
The 26-year-old Italian from the island of Sardinia now has his sights set on Breeders Cup’ success at the Del Mar racetrack, in San Diego, California, at the beginning of November.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships is an annual series of Grade One Thoroughbred horse races which attract the best horses and jockeys from all around the globe. In Decorated Knight Atzeni has a real chance of a win.
Decorated Knight and Atzeni surged from the back of the field past the other contenders in the final quarter-mile to win the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, in September. At 25-1 Decorated Knight was the longest-priced winner in the race’s history, despite having registered two Group One wins this season, in Dubai, in March and then in Ireland’s Tattersalls Gold Cup, in May.
“He has been amazing this year,” said Atzeni. “I didn’t expect to win that race at all. We went into the race without any expectations. We thought that we might run well, but we didn’t think we were good enough to win the race. It was a great feeling when he took off. It was a big race that has been won by some very good horses in the past.
“I would say that was my biggest surprise as a jockey when we won that race. I’ve been lucky enough to win 20 group ones, but that was undoubtedly a big surprise.”
And now Decorated Knight is set to fly out to the USA to contest the Breeders’ Cup.
“It’s very exciting because I’ve never ridden in the Breeders’ Cup before,” said Atzeni. “We will decide nearer the time whether he runs in the mile or mile-and-a-half race. I may also have a few other rides there as well.
“Decorated Knight keeps surprising us so I hope he surprises us again. And it would likely be his last run as well because I think he’ll go to stud after that.”
Atzeni also enjoyed a notable win on Stradivarius at Goodwood this season.
After the Breeders’ Cup Atzeni will be off to ride in Japan for a seven-week spell in the run-up to Christmas after which he will have a well-earned rest.
“I will take two months off after that,” he said. “I’ve got a few holidays booked. Just to relax mainly because it’s been a long season. It’s been non-stop since March in 2017. It helps to freshen you up.”
But before that the US challenge beckons.