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Andrea Atzeni hoping Ulysses can be hero in Investec Derby

2 Jun 2016

Jockey feared he would be watching the Epsom showpiece as a spectator but has plum ride

Stoute, left, celebrates winning a fifth Derby with the Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned Workforce in 2010. Picture couresy of Racingfotos.com

Andrea Atzeni believes Ulysses has the perfect temperament for the Investec Derby at Epsom on Saturday and says he “would not swap him for anything”.

The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt has been well backed in the ante-post market and is among 16 final entries for the showpiece, which is always one of the sporting highlights of the summer and is the seventh race in the QIPCO British Champions Series.

Beacon Rock and Bravery were the only horses to be withdrawn at the overnight stage. Record prize money of £1,545,000 is on offer.

Ulysses has raced exclusively in maidens and got off the mark at the third attempt on his latest start when an effortless eight-length winner under Ryan Moore at Newbury.

The last horse to win a Derby after a maiden success was Shaamit in 1996 but Stoute, 70, knows a thing or two about what is required – he is seeking a sixth success in the race – and Ulysses could not be better bred for the job being a son of Galileo, the 2001 Derby winner, out of Light Shift, who won the 2007 Oaks.

Atzeni feared he would be a spectator this year but with Moore on duty for Aidan O’Brien he will instead be in the thick of the action.

“I didn’t think I was going to get a ride in the race until about ten days ago, when Sir Michael phoned me up and asked if I wanted to ride Ulysses,” Atzeni said. “I was delighted to accept.

“Everyone likes Ulysses in the yard and they’ve always thought a lot of him, even as a two-year-old. I know it’s a big step up from a maiden to a Derby, but it’s been done before and he’s trained by Sir Michael, who knows how to win the race.

“He’s a beautifully bred horse and the couple of times I’ve sat on him he’s given me a very good feel. He’s got a good mind, is a good mover and will definitely stay; I would not swap him for anything.”

Expanding on Ulysses’s temperament, the Italian added: “A lot of horses jig-jog or pull, especially when they know they are going to the gallops. But he walks there calmly, sets off and travels nicely behind. That will stand him in good stead on Saturday.

“The two bits of work I’ve done on him have been on the all-weather and nothing crazy – you don’t want to be leaving the race on the gallops – but I let him stretch him legs and he quickened away from the lead horse. He moved good and is ready to go.”

Asked about potential dangers, he said: “It’s an open Derby, not like in previous years when you had odds-on shots such as Camelot and Australia. Everyone is going there thinking they have a chance. I’ll just worry about my horse and getting him a nice run round.”

The official going at Epsom early this morning remained soft, good to soft in places. It has been dry at the course since mid-afternoon yesterday and it is forecast to stay that way in the next 48 hours.

For profiles of all the Derby runners, click here.