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Francesca Cumani: A name now synonymous with the Spring Racing Carnival

This article first appeared in Equestrian Life Magazine. Click here to read whats in store this month. 

Francesca Cumani - Photo Newspix

Francesca Cumani.

© Newspix

 

A name now synonymous with the Spring Racing Carnival is that of Francesca Cumani, the English horsewoman who has been won over by the country and the Melbourne Cup Carnival that she and her father once plotted to conquer.  

FRANCESCA FIRST ARRIVED in Melbourne in 2006 with two horses trained by her father, Luca Cumani, a well-respected and successful Newmarket-based trainer. She was little known here, but it was soon apparent we were keen to learn more about this talented English horsewoman. Since that first visit, Francesca’s career has flourished, with her burgeoning media career going from strength to strength and her profile being raised considerably by her role as an international expert for Seven Racing, and subsequently by her position as a presenter for American-based CNN. A now familiar face in Australia and around the world, her professionalism and knowledge of horses and the industry make her an asset to racing’s international profile.

For those wondering what brought Francesca and team Cumani to Australia in 2006, it was the relationship between Luca and prominent racehorse owner Paul Makin, the owner of acclaimed racehorse Starcraft. Their plan was to by racehorses in the UK with the intention of travelling them to Australia for the Melbourne Cup. It was the initial trip with two horses, Glistening and Soulacroix, which ignited Francesca’s long-standing association with Australia. Neither horse became particularly decorated on the track in Australia, but it was to be the first of many trips targeting the Melbourne Cup and other high-profile races for the Cumani family.

 

Issue 17 Francesca Cumani

 

Despite their success in other key races during the carnival, winning the prized Cup remains elusive. Maybe this year’s entrant, Mount Athos, will change their luck and give the Cumani family and their team at Bedford Lodge a well-deserved win. To date they have come close twice, once in 2007 when Purple Moon ran second to Efficient, followed a year later by the painstakingly narrow margin between the hardy little grey Bauer, who was second to Viewed by a whisker, despite actually being clocked as the fastest around the course. Both horses hold a special place in Francesca’s heart, with her affections for them well documented. If you ask her to pick a favourite, Purple Moon might just come out ahead! Despite now having retired from racing, both are happy and still enjoying working lives. Purple Moon, fondly known as George, has a blossoming career as a successful show horse in the UK while Bauer has started his second career as a clerk of the course horse in Australia.

Francesca’s passion for horses is obvious and her life has involved horses for as long as she can remember. Growing up around horses, in particular the racing industry, it was always going to be difficult to deny the strong bond between man and beast.. She recalls riding, practically before she could walk, on her first pony, “a very cheeky Welsh mountain pony called Rudolph”, and since then horses have been an almost constant feature in her globetrotting lifestyle.

From an early age, racing and racehorses featured heavily in Francesca’s life with her father’s training stable, Bedford Lodge, very much a family affair. “I pestered my dad every day to let me ride out and eventually he relented. I rode my first racehorse when I was about 12, at which stage I fell off nearly every other day." Undeterred, she started to master her trade, and not satisfied to simply ride out on the gallops of Newmarket, went on to become a successful amateur rider, winning five races from about 25 rides, her first being at Deauville racecourse in France. A highlight must also have been beating her mother, Sara Cumani, in the Ladies Derby at Bath.

Not limited by her passion for racing, Francesca loves jumping and spent considerable time in Kenya riding through the Massai Mara on horseback safaris. She has become a very experienced and accomplished horsewoman who, despite her flourishing media career, is still most content to be in the saddle. In addition to those early periods spent in Australia during the Spring Racing Carnival, Francesca has spent lengthy periods working IN and learning in more detail about the Australian racing industry. She has spent a significant period working for numerous racehorse trainers, including David Hayes, Peter Moody and Gai Waterhouse, as well as spending time at key yearling sales such as Magic Millions and Karaka and working at Bloomsbury stud in New Zealand, where she prepared yearling for the Inglis Easter yearling sale.

A media career was something Francesca fell into by chance after an offer by Seven Racing to be a guest commentator during the 2009 Melbourne Cup Carnival. This became an ongoing contract that has gone from strength to strength, having this year been extended to include the Caulfield Guineas, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate. The future may see her contract further extending to big race meetings during the Melbourne autumn and Sydney carnivals.  Francesca also presents the monthly Winning Post show on CNN. The coverage includes 14 meetings in 12 countries, including the Arc in France, the Kentucky Derby in America and Royal Ascot in the UK. Having completed a modern languages degree in French and Spanish at Bristol University, she now also presents the Spanish version of Winning post, Al Galope, for CNN.

When asking Francesca what she most enjoys in her role as a racing presenter, her absolute passion for racing and horses is the answer. “Being involved in the excitement of race day, and coupled with extensive research into all the runners and knowing about each and every horse racing, makes the outcome more interesting”. Describing herself as “not a betting person” she reflected that maybe she should take betting up after all, with her large amount of research she should be armed with the knowledge to pick a winner. However, as everyone in racing knows, there is no such thing as a certainty – with the probable exception of Black Caviar – and this is one of the reasons the sport is loved by so many from all different walks of life.

Francesca has also recently taken on an official role with the Australian-based OTI racing syndicate as their European representative. OTI have owned and raced horses with the Cumani family for many years and the natural progression into this role comes after Francesca’s previous help, in an unofficial capacity, in purchasing horses around the world. The role she has undertaken is multi-faceted, including being involved in the buying process, helping to target potential prospects for the team to purchase and, when possible, riding each horse before it is bought. Once purchased she also helps sell shares in the horses and encourages people new to racing to get involved in owning a racehorse. She has also signed a three-year deal with Magic Millions to present on their race day and promote the sales throughout the year.

The future is exciting for one of Australia’s most famous and loved horseracing personalities. Her recent engagement to Rob Archibald, a successful international polo player and breeder, who’s family are based in NSW, might mean Australia can expect to see more of her in the future, but in the short term her plan is to continue following the sunshine, largely spending the respective summer months in both the northern and southern hemisphere.

This article first appeared in Equestrian Life Magazine. Click here to read whats in store this month.

 

 

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