De Rigeur delight for Atzeni
Andrea Atzeni's enforced trip to Haydock paid off handsomely as the talented rider steered De Rigueur to a lucrative victory in the bet365 Old Newton Cup.
The young Italian was likely heartbroken inside when told earlier this week that his services were required on Merseyside by retaining owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, a surprise call given it meant he would have to concede the ride on Coral-Eclipse contender Kingston Hill to compatriot Frankie Dettori.
Missing out on partnering a horse who gave him first British Group One victory in last year's Racing Post Trophy and took him to the runner-up spot in the Epsom Derby was surely tough for the uncomplaining Atzeni, but while Kingston Hill failed to land a telling blow at Sandown, Atzeni was smiling in the Haydock sunshine after De Rigueur's battling effort.
Unbeaten in two previous visits to the track and a winner at Newmarket on his latest start, Marco Botti's six-year-old had solid credentials for the £100,000 contest and was among the leading contenders at 9-1.
Dashing Star took the field along at a steady gallop for much of the contest and gradually led them over to the stands' side rail as they fanned out across the course in the straight.
Quiz Mistress and Magic Hurricane loomed large but De Rigeur and Pallasator slowly pulled clear in a pulsating finish with the Marco Botti-trained six-year-old prevailing by a neck.
Magic Hurricane was three parts of a length away in third.
Atzeni said: "He's a horse that needs dropping out, so the (high) draw wasn't a problem. He's one of those you don't want to get to the front too soon on, so it worked out perfectly."
Botti said: "We didn't run him in the Northumberland Plate last week because the ground was too fast and luckily conditions have come right for him.
"I thought it was a very good performance. Andrea said the ground has dried out a bit, he was feeling it and for that reason he didn't travel as well as he usually does.
"He's a horse that doesn't want to hit the front too soon and he doesn't win by far, but he finished off his race well and we're delighted.
"A race like the Ebor could be target for him. He's well handicapped but we'll see how much he goes up after today.
"The Cesarewitch could be another race for him at the end of the season, but it all depends on the ground. He stays well and when he gets some cut in the ground he's a good horse."
Asked about a potential Melbourne Cup bid, the trainer said: "He would need to go up a few pounds in the weights and I'm not sure the fast ground would suit him.
"We'll keep our options open, but I would say at this stage that was unlikely."