Nick Townsend talks to Luca Cumani about his star filly and his fam­ily’s ex­ploits in the rac­ing in­dus­try

The Racing Paper - - News -

Luca Cumani hasn’t been around quite as long as the NHS, but some­times it ap­pears so. Seem­ingly om­nipresent, he has been part of the back­bone of Bri­tish rac­ing since 1976, and in the in­ter­ven­ing years the New­mar­ket trainer’s ad­ven­tures here and abroad have se­cured him and his own­ers a mul­ti­tude of Group 1s in five dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

And yet, ask the 69-year-old what ad­vice he would of­fer the cal­low novice Luca Cumani if he was start­ing out here to­day, and he states un­hesi­tat­ingly: “It’s much more com­pet­i­tive now. The best ad­vice I would have for a young trainer is to go to Aus­tralia which is where my son (Matt) has gone.”

He adds: “The com­pe­ti­tion there is more evenly spread, the own­er­ship of horses is more evenly spread. It isn’t as po­larised as it is here. Here, the power is ba­si­cally in the hands of some Arabs and Cool­more and, un­less you’re in there, with them, it’s hard.”

Cumani is well qual­i­fied to make such a judge­ment. He speaks with the au­thor­ity of a man who, very pub­licly, suf­fered the re­moval of 35 of his horses – in­clud­ing the King Ge­orge VI and Queen El­iz­a­beth II Stakes vic­tor Post­poned – by Sheikh Mo­hammed Obaid in 2015.

It was a chas­ten­ing episode – one he once wryly de­scribed as Obexit – for the Ital­ian-born trainer and life has cer­tainly changed for him since the days of his Derby win­ners Kahyasi (1988) and High-Rise (1998), Barathea’s su­perb 1994 Breed­ers’ Cup Mile tri­umph and the five Group 1s Fal­brav won in 2003, in­clud­ing in the Eclipse Stakes.

Yet, three years on, Cumani re­sem­bles a pugilist who, hav­ing clam­bered off the ropes, has spat out some loos­ened teeth, and is rel­ish­ing the chal­lenges that 2015 re­verse pro­duced.

True, his own web­site refers to a quiet start to the sea­son. “I’m very much down on the num­ber of horses,” he ex­plains. “Through­out my ca­reer, I’ve al­ways had more than 100 horses and now I’m down to 50.” As for fu­ture plans, he in­sists: “I’m not one for look­ing too far ahead. I’m here, and as long as peo­ple give me horses, I will train.”

Since the Sheikh’s ac­tion, which pro­voked much con­jec­ture, and sym­pa­thy for Cumani, the trainer has con­tin­ued to amass Group and listed win­ners, most lat­terly from God Given, his rep­re­sen­ta­tive in to­day’s Group 2 bet365 Lan­cashire Oaks at Hay­dock where she is twice a course win­ner al­ready, though only once on good to firm – when vic­to­ri­ous in her last run here in last month’s Group 3 Bet­way Pin­na­cle Stakes. Her three-timer (at Hay­dock, New­mar­ket and Deav­ille) last year was achieved on soft go­ing.

“She’s an in­tended run­ner, pro­vided the ground isn’t too firm and I’m re­ly­ing on Mr Tell­wright (Kirk­land Tell­wright, Hay­dock clerk of the course),” says Cumani, re­fer­ring to the wa­ter­ing of the track that he hopes will ease the ground. He adds: “Her pre­ferred sur­face is a bit of give. She got away with it in the Pin­na­cle, but I’m not sure she’d get away with it in a race like the Lan­cashire Oaks.”

The four-year-old daugh­ter of Nathaniel is also en­tered for the Group 2 Qatar Lil­lie Langtree Stakes at Good­wood and the Group 1 Dar­ley York­shire Cup at York, with her trainer, who won to­day’s race in 2013 with Emi­rates Queen: com­ment­ing: “The Lil­lie Langtry at Good­wood is over 1m 6f. I’m sure she’ll get the trip. York is a step up, but should she win a Group 2, then ob­vi­ously the next thing for con­sid­er­a­tion would be a Group 1. She nor­mally im­proves with her rac­ing be­cause she’s a big filly. We’re happy where we are with her.”

Coin­ci­den­tally, the owner­breed­ers of God Given are St Al­bans Blood­stock, who bred Post­poned, to whom the filly is a half­sis­ter.

There has never been any doubt­ing Cumani’s own pedi­gree, nor his route to the zenith of his pro­fes­sion. The Mi­lan­born son of cham­pion ama­teur jockey Elena and cham­pion trainer

Ser­gio Cumani trav­elled to the

UK and be­came

Sir Henry Ce­cil’s as­sis­tant be­fore set­ting up at Bed­ford House.

From that base, he has be­come a glo­be­trot­ter to com­pete with the tow­er­ing bas­ket­ball men from Har­lem. “I think it’s a trend that’s go­ing to in­crease, as well,” he says. “I might have been one of the pi­o­neers, mainly be­cause I en­joyed go­ing abroad and see­ing how things are done in dif­fer­ent ju­ris­dic­tions. You can al­ways learn some­thing from wher­ever you travel. But sec­ondly be­cause the prize­money in most of the places where you can race is ten times big­ger than ours.

“If you have a chance it’s good to (ex­plore for­eign op­por­tu­ni­ties) be­cause one of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of a trainer is also to make the own­ers last as long as pos­si­ble with­out send­ing them broke!” He jests, of course, typ­i­cal of this ur­bane, thought­ful char­ac­ter.

It was one such jour­ney, on his first trip to Aus­tralia in 2007, when his fa­ther’s Pur­ple Moon was run­ner-up in the Melbourne Cup, that in­spired his son Matt to seek out a new life as a trainer in Aus­tralia – some­thing of a con­trast to work­ing in the fi­nan­cial world and also in the of­fice of then Con­ser­va­tive leader Michael Howard which he did be­fore the 2005 elec­tion.

Cumani Jnr now trains at Bal­larat, around 75 miles from Melbourne and, while it is tempt­ing to sug­gest that he will even­tu­ally suc­ceed his fa­ther at Bed­ford House, Cumani Snr main­tains:

“He’s very happy there, hav­ing quite a lot of win­ners, and has mar­ried an Aus­tralian. They’re ex­pect­ing their first child, and he is very happy and set­tled. He’s got about 100 horses, so all is good.”

Cumani’s daugh­ter Frans­esca, below left, mar­ried to Rob Archibald, a for­mer Aus­tralian in­ter­na­tional polo player, with whom she has a son, Harry, still rides out for the fam­ily firm hav­ing been an ama­teur rider who twice won the Queen Mother Cup at York, a race also won by her mother Sara.

How­ever, she is best known on as a key com­po­nent of ITV rac­ing cov­er­age.

“She’s do­ing I think an ex­cel­lent job,” says her fa­ther. “Hope­fully, it’s not just what I feel, but what ev­ery­body else tells me. She thor­oughly en­joys it and I must say the ITV cov­er­age is very good. All the par­tic­i­pants are ex­cel­lent.”

You sug­gest that she could not be bet­ter pre­pared for the task of help­ing to de­mys­tify the sport, hav­ing spent much of her life within an elite train­ing es­tab­lish­ment. “Def­i­nitely,” he says. “And also hav­ing her mother’s good looks helps…”

“Through­out my ca­reer, I’ve al­ways had more than 100 horses and now I’m down to 50. I’m here and as long as peo­ple give me horses”

“Francesca’s do­ing an ex­cel­lent job. It’s not just what I feel, but what ev­ery­body else tells me.”

New­mar­ket mae­stro: Luca Cumani

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