Tuesday 3 October 2017

Luca Cumani: Down But Not Out

Born in Milan, Italy in 1949, Luca Cumani is the son of Sergio Cumani, a ten-time champion trainer in his native Italy, for whom he worked as assistant trainer before joining the late Sir Henry Cecil at Warren Place, Newmarket, in a similar capacity in 1974. Two years later, Cumani began training, in his own right, at the nearby Bedford House Stables and has been there ever since.

During a distinguished career, Cumani has saddled winners at the highest level all over the world. Highlights include winning the St. Leger, with Commanche Run in 1984, the Derby, with Kahyasi in 1988 and High Rise in 1989, and the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Cartier Horse of the Year Barathea in 1994. He also has the distinction of winning the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster, also known as the “Fillies St. Leger”, five times.

Cumani was also instrumental in shaping the early career of fellow Milanese Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori, who was sent to Bedford Lodge by his father, Gianfranco, in July, 1985 as a 14-year-old to become an apprentice jockey. After six months of pleading to come home, on a weekly basis, Dettori later recalled, “…after six months the trainer Luca Cumani asked my dad if I could stay as he saw potential. I began earning £12 a week.” Cumani provided Dettori with his first winner in Britain, Lizzy Hare, at Goodwood in 1987 and his first Group 1 winner, Markofdistinction in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot three years later.

Cumani has suffered dramatic splits from two leading patrons, the Aga Khan and Sheikh Obaid al Maktoum over the years. In 2000, after two failed drug tests, the Aga Khan accused Cumani of failing to ensure compliance with medication regulations and removed 30 horses, including three future Royal Ascot winners, from Bedford House. In 2015, Sheik Mohammed Obaid inexplicably removed all his horses – a total of 35, including recent King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Postponed – in a move described by Cumani as a “devastating blow”.

In 2017, Cumani saddled 38 winners and won £411,597 in total prize money, compared with 50 winners and £1,643,651 in 2015. However, when interviewed in 2016, the Newmarket stalwart remained pragmatic, saying, “We knew it was going to be tough. We are way down on winners because we just don’t have the numbers.” Nevertheless, Luca Cumani is renowned for his patience and shrewdness, so remains one to keep on the right side.

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