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Andrea Atzeni returns, Keagan De Melo’s set for Hong Kong debut

September 6, 2023 at 3:59:45 AM

Recently arrived jockeys Andrea Atzeni and Keagan De Melo were officially unveiled by The Hong Kong Jockey Club at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 5 September) ahead of the impending 2023/24 racing season which commences this Sunday (10 September).

Recently arrived jockeys Andrea Atzeni and Keagan De Melo were officially unveiled by The Hong Kong Jockey Club at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 5 September) ahead of the impending 2023/24 racing season which commences this Sunday (10 September).

Mr Andrew Harding, The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “As foreshadowed at the end of last season we intended that over the course of the offseason we would be adding to the jockey’s roster and I’m extremely pleased to formerly announce that the two jockeys that have now been given part-season licences by the Licensing Committee.

“Since the last time Andrea was licenced by the Club, his career has gone on to even greater heights. He has Group 1 wins in seven countries, including two British Classics and he arrives here after an extraordinarily successful summer in the United Kingdom. I’m very confident that he will be warmly embraced by the trainers, owners and public.”

Atzeni, 32, returns to Hong Kong as a polished globally accredited Group 1-winning rider. Hailing from Italy – Atzeni has been based in Great Britain for much of his career, notably riding for trainers Roger Varian and the retired Luca Cumani.

“I spent a little bit of time here (in Hong Kong) between 2014 and 2015, it’s a long time ago and I was a lot younger. I’d say mentally, I wasn’t quite ready for it. So coming back here nine years later, I feel like I’ve achieved a lot more around experience and I’ve been lucky enough to ride all over the world.

“When the offer came along, I thought about it quite carefully, I came to a conclusion that it was the right time in my career to come back to Hong Kong and try my luck here,” Atzeni said.

The Italian has top-level wins in Great Britain, France, Italy, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and Germany. He is best known for his Group 1 triumphs aboard Postponed, Defoe, Stradivarius, Decorated Knight, Kingston Hill and Desert Encounter.

Atzeni has three wins in Hong Kong, while his most recent Group 1 win came in the G1 Prix Morny (1200m) at Deauville in France aboard Vandeek for trainers Simon & Ed Crisford last month.

The entrance of Keagan De Melo sees the South African ace join fellow compatriots Lyle Hewitson and Luke Ferraris with riding contracts in Hong Kong.

“South Africa, of course, has been a source of great riders in Hong Kong and Keagan very much is in that mould. He boasts a number of Group 1 wins and I am very confident that he will follow in the footsteps of the other South African riders who have spent time here,” said Mr Andrew Harding, The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing.

De Melo, 30, is a product of the highly-regarded South African Jockey Academy, and last season starred with a maiden champion jockey title in South Africa.

“I’ve settled in quite well. I’ve been here for just under a month, so it’s given me a bit of time to get used to the weather and get my family used to it. It’s all going well so far,” De Melo said.

De Melo has ridden over 100 winners in a season on six occasions in South Africa. He is known for big-race partnerships with Puerto Manzano, Gimme A Prince and Son Of Raj – the winner of the 2023 South African Derby.

“Until about two years ago I probably wasn’t looking into leaving South Africa but the better you get in your homeland you try and explore a little bit more, I thought it was the right time for me,” De Melo said.

Both Atzeni and De Melo are licenced to ride in Hong Kong until 12 February, 2024.

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