Andrea Atzeni has carved something of a niche in recent times as ‘Mr Doncaster’ and he’ll be aiming to cement that notion by steering Defoe to St Leger glory on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Sardinian has landed no less than six Group One races on Town Moor since 2013, including back-to-back wins in the world’s oldest Classic on Kingston Hill (2014) and Simple Verse (2015).
Atzeni can also point to multiple Group Two wins around Doncaster in his four-year golden spell at the Yorkshire track.
Defoe has been rising through the ranks this season and, following his win in the Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last month, he’s prominent in the St Leger betting at 9/2.
Having shown his stamina at Newbury last time out, Atzeni fully expects the colt to excel around Doncaster as he looks to once again team up with Kingston Hill’s trainer, Roger Varian, to win the final British Classic of the season.
He is confident that Defoe, unbeaten in four races this season, will relish Doncaster as he feels the horse will be suited to the track.
“He’s very exciting. He’s progressed with every run and gave me a great feel at Newbury to win his first group race, despite being relatively inexperienced. All he wanted to do in the stalls was put his head down and eat grass, and afterwards you wouldn’t have known he’d had a race,” Atzeni told At The Races.
“I thought he’d stay well at Newbury. It was just short of 1m6f, and he relished every yard of it, travelling sweetly throughout the race, but you never really know until you try.”
He added: “Now we know for sure he’ll see it out at Doncaster, and he’ll certainly enjoy the big galloping track. He’s a very uncomplicated colt who settles nicely into his races, so I know I’ll be able to keep things simple which is such an advantage to a jockey.”
Atzeni is also fortunate in that he knows plenty about some of his main market rivals for this weekend’s big race.
He has partnered both John Gosden’s Stradivarius (8/1 – St Leger) and Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean (7/2) already this season, but the jockey doesn’t appear keen to swap his mount for the St Leger.
“I have as good a chance as any in a competitive but open race,” he said. “My horse is improving at the right time and still doesn’t know how good he is.”
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