'I'd love to be champion': Andrea Atzeni enters title betting after agent switch
A new name is in the mix for the British Flat jockeys' title in 2018, when Tony Hind – the agent who has helped make Ryan Moore, Richard Hughes and Jim Crowley champions – will book rides for Andrea Atzeni.
Atzeni, who finished tenth in this year's championship, 80 winners behind winner Silvestre de Sousa, was installed 7-1 joint-second favourite for a maiden crown by bet365 but stopped short of saying he was set for a full-blown assault on the Stobart-sponsored title.
Bet365 spokesman Pat Cooney said: "De Sousa is a worthy favourite but next year definitely looks Atzeni's best chance so far."
Paddy Power went 12-1 and William Hill 10-1, with the firm's Rupert Adams saying: "We've slashed the price from 25-1 since hearing he has joined Tony Hind. Hind is the kingmaker and it would be no great surprise if he delivered another title."
A winner of six Group 1 races this term, Atzeni ends a fruitful nine-year spell with Paul Clarke, whom he praised when speaking to the Racing Post from Bahrain on Friday.
Atzeni, who stressed switching to Hind would have no impact on his retainer with leading owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum or his relationship with trainer Roger Varian, said: "It's always been at the back of my mind and I'd love to be champion.
"For the last few years I've been going for quality more than quantity, but I'm not saying I'm moving to Tony and going to be champion jockey next year or anything like that.
"Paul has done a tremendous job and if it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't be where I am now. You wouldn't meet a nicer person than Paul, but maybe it was time for a change."
Azteni, whose biggest wins have come on Kingston Hill and Simple Verse in the St Leger, and on Postponed in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, added: "When I left Sheikh Obaid to go to Qatar Racing and then back to Sheikh Obaid you never knew if it was the right or wrong thing to do; I just felt I wanted a change and Tony could be the man.
"His record speaks for itself and he's a very good agent, but I can't take anything away from Paul, who has done a great job. We are great friends and very similar people – laid-back – and I probably need someone to push me a bit more."
Azteni, who has chalked up 95 winners in Britain in 2017, rode his biggest winner in Japan last month but is winding down for the year, with a Christmas holiday back with his family in Sardinia booked.
"The decision is nothing to do with the year I've had," added the 26-year-old. "I had a great season with six Group 1 winners. It was a shame I didn't get to 100 winners in Britain, but that's no-one's fault."
Clarke, understandably upset at losing the star name on his books, is proud of the role he has played in shaping Atzeni's career.
"It's disappointing as we've come a long way together and enjoyed some very special days," said the agent, who also looks after Harry Bentley, Daniel Muscutt and Jack Mitchell.
"Our association goes back to his first winner in 2008 and his stats speak for themselves, but there are worse things happening to people in life.
"It's been a absolute pleasure working for him as he's a genuinely nice person and rides for some great people. I wish him the best of luck for the future."
2018 British Flat jockeys’ title
Bet365: 4-9 Silvestre De Sousa, 7 Andrea Atzeni, Jim Crowley, 14 Ryan Moore, 16 William Buick, 20 James Doyle, 25 Paul Hanagan, Daniel Tudhope, 33 Oisin Murphy
Paddy Power: 1-2 Silvestre De Sousa, 4 Jim Crowley, 10 William Buick, Ryan Moore, 12 Andrea Atezni, 25 James Doyle, Paul Hanagan
William Hill: 4-11 Silvestre De Sousa, 6 Jim Crowley, 10 Andrea Atzeni, 14 Ryan Moore, 20 William Buick, 25 James Doyle, Daniel Tudhope, 33 Paul Hanagan, Oisin Murphy
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