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Andrea Atzeni geared up for Qatar challenge

By Martin Kelly

Andrea Atzeni last night spoke of his excitement at being named as Qatar Racing's new retained first jockey.

Jamie Spencer had stunned the racing world on Thursday with the news he would be retiring from the saddle at the end of the current season to take up a new management role in Sheikh Fahad's operation.

A replacement for 34-year-old Spencer had been expected to be named soon, and Italian-born Atzeni had been widely tipped for the role.

Killarney native Oisin Murphy, the rising star of the apprentice ranks, has also been appointed as a retained jockey for Qatar Racing after Harry Bentley's two-year contract expires at the end of the year.

Their positions will come into effect from from January 2015.

Atzeni, 23, has impressed in riding for the likes of Roger Varian, finishing second to Australia in the Investec Derby on Kingston Hill, and he said: "I feel very privileged to have been asked to ride as first jockey for Qatar Racing.

"I am excited at the prospect and look forward to repaying the faith Sheikh Fahad and his brothers have shown.

"I would like to thank all the trainers who have supported and helped me in my career, without whom I would not have received this opportunity.

"In particular, I would like to thank Roger Varian and his wife Hanako for their support. I credit Roger with putting me on the map through horses such as Kingston Hill.

"I am very grateful to Sheikh Mohammed Obaid and Luca Cumani, who have both been terrific to ride for, and to Robert Eddery, also a great supporter," he added.

Varian said: "We wish him all the best. He's a very classy jockey, and a very classy guy."

Murphy, whose career took off with Andrew Balding, said: "I'm very fortunate to be given the opportunity to be a part of Qatar Racing.

"I would like to thank Andrew Balding for his guidance and support during the past two seasons."

Meanwhile, Ulster great Tony McCoy rode his 101st winner of the season last night, On The Record triumphing at Ffos Las.

The 40-year-old racked up his fastest ever century with a double on Thursday night.

Belfast Telegraph

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