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Jockey Atzeni on Starting Season Without a Retainer

'Now if a good horse comes along, I'll be able to commit to it.' - Andrea Atzeni

(L-R) Richard Kingscote and Andrea Atzeni

(L-R) Richard Kingscote and Andrea Atzeni

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

Andrea Atzeni has bagged a key early big-race ride on Al Mubhir in the Pertemps Network Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster April 1 as he embarks on his first season without a retainer in nine years.

The 32-year-old enjoyed multiple group 1 successes all over the world in his role as retained jockey to owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum until that came to an end last year, and before that he filled a similar role for Qatar Racing.

Now back in the brave new world of freelancing, the Newmarket-based rider has hit lucky early after getting the call to ride William Haggas' unexposed Al Mubhir, who has been backed down to 7-2 favorite with William Hill from double-figure odds only a week ago. He remains 4-1 favorite with Coral and Ladbrokes.

Commenting on his new venture, Atzeni said: "I'm freelancing this year, which is a bit of a change as I've been a retained rider for the past nine years. Firstly with Qatar Racing and then Sheikh Obaid, and I'm hoping to be busy and I'm looking forward to it. The quality may not be as easy to find, but I'm sure we'll be getting plenty of rides.

"There are pros and cons with these retained roles. Obviously, there is a contract there and there is money coming in even before you've even sat on a horse. You're riding for a big owner and there will be nice horses there, but if a good horse comes along elsewhere, I knew I probably wouldn't be able to ride it next time as I would have to go somewhere else as part of the retainer. Now I'm freelance, if a good horse comes along, I'll be able to commit to it."

Atzeni, who has already enjoyed major success in Bahrain and Qatar this year, said: "I'm not as committed to anybody and I'll ride for as many people as I can. As soon as I got back from Bahrain I kept myself busy and tried to ride winners to get the ball rolling. I don't have anyone in particular I will be riding for, but I have a good agent in Steve Croft."

On his Town Moor mount, he said: "I've won everything else at Doncaster, including the St. Leger (G1), but I've never won the Lincoln. I've not had that many rides in it, as it usually clashes with Dubai World Cup (G1) weekend, and I'm usually at Doncaster only on the Sunday.

"It's a great ride to pick up and not just because he's favorite. He's trained by William Haggas, who has won it four times before, I believe. It looks like the ground is going to be soft, heavy in places, which he won on last year."