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Andrea Atzeni to miss Champions Day after BHA admits ban error

Andrea Atzeni has been ruled out of Champions Day at the 11th hour after a BHA "procedural error" meant he was told he could ride despite being suspended by the French racing authorities. 

Reacting to the shock of missing three rides at Ascot, the 27-year-old said: "It's not fair on me and it's not fair on the owners or trainers – I got the news at four o'clock this afternoon."

The jockey, who was booked to ride Thomas Hobson in the Qipco Long Distance Cup, Lightning Spear in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Sharja Bridge in the Balmoral Handicap, has been suspended on Saturday and Sunday after committing a riding offence at Longchamp on October 6.

Atzeni's representative, who called the BHA in an attempt to postpone one day of the ban under the exemption system for racedays with Group 1s, was mistakenly informed Atzeni was free to move the date and so could ride on Champions Day.

But after an inquiry by France Galop, the BHA said in a statement: "The French system allows riders to request to remove and not serve one day of suspension per year. Unfortunately Mr Atzeni has already used this concession in 2018 and therefore this option is not available to him.

"Mr Atzeni's representative was contacted as soon as the issue came to light and the trainers of the horses he was due to ride have been asked to make alternative arrangements."

The BHA added: “We apologise to Andrea, connections of the horses in question and anyone else affected by this.”

However, Atzeni responded: "If we do something wrong we always get punished, but when they [the BHA] do something wrong they say 'sorry, we made a mistake' and that's it."

He added: "We're not talking about everyday races, It's our biggest day of the season. Group 1s with lots of money involved, so these mistakes should not happen."

Oisin Murphy will now take the ride on Thomas Hobson, while James Doyle partners Sharja Bridge. 

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