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O.P. « 2015-Nov-06, 10:36 AM »

Cumani’s Australian Dream


Matt Cumani | Emma Berry

By Emma Berry

Should the Conservatives have won the 2005 General Election in the UK, Matt Cumani may have been lost to Westminster, where he had been working on the election campaign after a stint in the office of then-party leader Michael Howard. Politics’ loss is racing’s gain, however, and the call to return initially to Newmarket proved too strong as Cumani set about honing the skills which would lead to a life more in tune with his upbringing.

From January, the 34-year-old thus becomes the third generation of his illustrious racing family to hold a training licence. His grandfather Sergio started the line in Italy, while father Luca has become one of the most respected handlers at British racing’s headquarters. Matt will take the Cumani migration a step further to Australia with the lease of 24 boxes in the old gold-mining town of Ballarat, which is home to Victoria’s premier country racecourse just an hour outside Melbourne.

He has not simply learned his trade at the hand of his father–though undoubtedly much of the required knowledge for fine-tuning young thoroughbreds will have been gained almost by osmosis as Cumani and his younger sister Francesca, now an in-demand racing presenter in Australia, spent their formative years at their parents’ Bedford House Stables in the heart of Newmarket. After returning from London, Cumani headed to the nearby yard of Ed Dunlop for a stint as assistant trainer, before spending two years in America, first with Todd Pletcher and then Paddy Gallagher. His education was completed alongside Australia’s leading trainer, Chris Waller, and it was here that his mind was made up.

“I came out in January and did the sales circuit with Guy Mulcaster and then went on to work for Chris Waller,” says Cumani. “I’d come to Australia the year before and did a bit of a tour around with Terry Henderson, looking at Ballarat, Warrnambool and lots of other places around Melbourne, but straight away I had my heart set on Ballarat.”

He continues, “I was thinking about setting up then but I didn’t have the Australian experience. Chris is the best trainer in Australia and I have to be honest that I was surprised that someone with the number of horses he has could pay such individual attention to each horse but he puts in serious hours each day. He starts at 3 a.m. and doesn’t finish until 6 p.m. and if he gets tired he’ll go for a 10-minute jog and plough on.”

“That regime gives him the chance to tailor a horse’s training plan and they each have incredibly varied routines,” continued Cumani. “If two horses are going for the same race on Saturday, one might do an extra lap of the pool and the other an extra 10 minutes on the walker. His attention to detail and the ability to focus on each horse are what really impressed me.”

While Waller dominates the racing scene in New South Wales, it is Darren Weir who has a stranglehold on the Victorian championship and Cumani will have the chance to observe him at close quarters at his main stable in Ballarat. The training center’s profile received an extra boost this week with the popular win of Weir’s Prince Of Penzance (NZ) (Pentire {GB}) in Tuesday’s G1 Emirates Melbourne Cup.

Cumani was swayed in his decision by Ballarat’s uphill training track, which is similar to Newmarket’s famous Warren Hill canter but has the extra benefit of laser timing.

“The fact that Darren Weir is so dominant from Ballarat gives me confidence to be able to sell my product,” continued Cumani. “Obviously Archie [Alexander] is there too and he’s a great mate. There’s a really good feeling at Ballarat. Lachlan McKenzie [CEO] and his team have been there for four years and they have really done great work in making Ballarat the premier country track in Victoria.

He added, “It’s a proper environment for the horses–an ideal spot. I know it gets cold there in the winter–it’s cold in Newmarket too–but I’d be more worried about the really hot days and heat exhaustion for the horses.”

Currently in the throes of assembling both a four-legged and two-legged team for his new venture, Cumani will be aided to a certain extent by his knowledgeable family. Francesca, who is expecting a baby next Easter, now lives in New South Wales but will be very much involved in the stable’s promotion and syndicate management.

“I had hoped she’d be my main work rider as she’s so good at that,” says Cumani. “Francesca will be a big part of it. She’s based in Sydney and is focusing on her work for Channel 7 but she’s very keen to help me with all aspects of my business. We know very well how each other thinks and we have a similar opinion on horses. It will be great to be able to bounce ideas off her.”

Furthermore, Luca and Sara Cumani will be in Australia and New Zealand in January to help their son with the first round of yearling sales.

“I want to get to the Magic Millions and Karaka but I also need to get my team in place,” said Cumani. “Even if I can’t spend too much time at the sales, my parents are coming down and Francesca will be at Magic Millions so we’ll have a great team on the ground.”

The stable will not consist solely of yearling purchases. En route to Australia from the recent horses-in-training sale at Tattersalls in Newmarket is the 82-rated 3-year-old Covenant (GB) (Raven’s Pass), while Cumani has also poached a horse from Bedford House Stables.

The young trainer confesses, “On my last visit home I managed to convince an owner of my father’s to send a horse called Critical Risk (Ire) (Pivotal {GB) to me in Australia–I checked it with dad first!”

He adds, “But hopefully our two stables can compliment each other. It’s something I could see happening a bit more and hopefully, in the future, we might even send some horses to Newmarket from Australia. Obviously the prize-money isn’t great so it would have to be for owners who are interested in the challenge, or even a horse for Royal Ascot–that’s the dream.”

“I’m committed to Australia,” Cumani continued. “Not wanting to sound like too much of a megalomaniac, I suppose long-term my idea would be to have a global operation and keep a stable in the UK and a stable down here, which obviously means having a very good team. In Australia you can have training partners–like Hayes and Dabernig–which we can’t in the UK. It’s possible–the two hemispheres are working closer and closer together all the time.”

A good example of a racing operation which already takes full advantage of both hemispheres is one which also has close links with the Cumani family–OTI Racing.

Luca came within a nostril of claiming the 2008 G1 Melbourne Cup for the Terry Henderson-led syndicate with Bauer (Ire) (Halling) and Francesca acts as European racing representative for the team which enjoyed Group 1 success on Victoria Derby day with the battling victory of French import Gailo Chop (Fr) (Deportivo) in the G1 Mackinnon S. OTI will also be supporting the new Ballarat venture.

“I’ve had plenty of help on the business side from Terry Henderson and his team which has been a major boost,” says Cumani, who is keen to encourage other owners to think more globally in their racing aspirations. “My main reason for coming here is that I honestly think the two stables can work well together. If I took over from my father in Newmarket it’s just more of the same. What do I have to sell other than, ‘let’s try again with another horse’?”

“Coming to Australia enables me to say, ‘Have a horse with the Cumanis and at the end of its 3-year-old year you can either say sell–we do well at the horses-in-training sale–keep it for another year, or now we can add another dimension with potentially very good prize-money and improvement with a change of environment in Australia,” he said.

Cumani also believes that the cost of traveling a horse to the other side of the world can be offset by the decent prize-money on offer in Australia, which has a dearth of middle-distance campaigners.

“People have this perception that it’s only worth sending down 100-plus rated horses but almost any horse is worth sending if you can afford to travel,” he avers. “Yes, it costs around £50,000 at Spring Carnival time because of all the quarantine costs, etc., but at other times of the year it’s more like £14,000. It could be a price worth paying, particularly if you can sell a share in the horse to an Australian owner.”

Cumani’s first official duty in Australia will be as an ambassador for the Ballarat Cup Nov. 21 alongside his sister, at what is soon to become his permanent base. After that it will be full steam ahead to finalize plans for the ambitious venture which is starting at a sensibly modest level. Hearing tales this week of Darren Weir’s rise from a two-horse trainer in the bush to one of the country’s leading lights will doubtless have stirred the budding trainer in his quest.

Cumani’s genial manner perhaps belies his determination to succeed but there’s undeniable intent in his voice as he says simply, “I can’t wait to get going.”

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« 2017-May-16, 07:55 PM Reply #1 »
Matt Cumani suspended and fined $20,000
16/5/2017 at 4:44pm
Posted by: AAP+

Filled in: Breaking, Horse Racing News | 16/5/2017 at 4:44pm

The emerging training career of Matt Cumani has hit a hurdle with the 36-year-old suspended for the rest of the season and fined $20,000 for failing to notify stewards for almost a month of a strangles infection in his Ballarat stables.

Cumani faced the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to two charges levelled against him by Racing Victoria stewards.
The first was for conduct prejudicial to the image, interests or welfare of racing.

The other was for failing to tell RV of the presence of strangles which is classified as a notifiable disease.

Stewards established Cumani knew one horse, Corrs, had tested positive to strangles by October 27 last year and had had veterinary advice regarding the presence of strangles in his stable on October 31 and November 18.

He had also been told by his vet in late October of his obligation to report the infection.

Stewards were told of the problem on November 23 after they had already received intelligence of a potential strangles case at Ballarat.

Cumani’s legal representative Joe Ferwerda told the hearing the trainer made a “grave error” in trying to manage the situation without informing stewards and acknowledged his contrition.

Judge John Bowman said he took into account Cumani’s guilty plea, his co-operation with stewards once they became involved and also “powerful references” by a number of well-known industry people.

Stable supporter, OTI Racing’s Terry Henderson was in attendance and provided a written reference supporting Cumani.

But Henderson was also forthright in acknowledging his disappointment.

“Mr Henderson expressed his disappointment and anger that you jeopardised your own training career and stable operation but also the operation of others,” Bowman said.

“I do not regard you as a person likely to offend again in this way or any other major way. But general deterrence is another matter.”

Cumani currently has 54 horses in work and employs more than 20 staff.

Once stewards became involved on November 24, Cumani’s three stables were quarantined until the following month along with the stable of neighbouring trainer James Wardeiner who had housed some of Cumani’s horses during the period in question.

Bowman said it was lucky the spread of infection wasn’t as bad as it could have been but said the potential had been there.

He said Cumani continued to train during the spring carnival, when he had his first Melbourne Cup runner, the OTI-owned import Grey Lion who was prepared out of the Werribee quarantine facility.

And while Cumani took measures to contain the disease it was “by no means complete”.

“You put your interests ahead of those of the stewards, trainers, and other racing establishments,” the judge said.

Cumani will weigh up a possible appeal against the severity of the penalty.

His suspension runs until August 1.

Very serious matter failing to disclose penalty well deserved IMO.

You would think the vet also had an ethical obligation to notify the infection hisself....wonder he wasn't charged. :whistle:

Giddy Up :beer: