Early years with Luca Cumani helped shape Dettori into world-class talent

Luca Cumani can now count his blessings he was the first trainer to recognise Frankie Dettori’s talents, though their relationship got off to a rather rocky start.

Dettori’s father, Gianfranco, sent him to Bedford House Stables in Newmarket, as Cumani was a fellow Italian and his 14-year-old son could speak no English.

When Dettori turned up on Cumani’s doorstep in 1985 it was not long before the trainer realised he had a tearaway teenager on his hands. However, it also quickly became apparent to him the fledgling rider had a special talent.

Frankie Dettori with his father, Gianfranco
Frankie Dettori with his father, Gianfranco (David Davies/PA)

“Frankie is one of the greatest jockeys after Lester Piggott to have graced this island,” said Cumani.

“I was very lucky he started off with me. I didn’t think I was so lucky in the beginning because he was such a nightmare.

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“Looking back, I consider myself lucky to have had him in his formative years. Even though he was such a devil to begin with as a teenager, he always had that talent and always had the will to win that transmitted to the horses.”

The pair formed a highly-successful relationship with Cumani picking out some of the many big-race triumphs they shared.

Markofdistinction (left) wins the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1990
Markofdistinction (left) wins the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1990 (Rebeca Naden/PA)

“There have been so many fantastic memories. The main one would be the races we won together at Ascot,” he said.

“Ascot has always been one of my favourite racecourses and so it has been for Frankie.

“A long time before his ‘Magnificent Seven’ we won many top-class races at Ascot together.

“Markofdistinction was his first Royal Ascot winner in the Queen Anne in 1990, then we had a double of Group Ones in the autumn there with Markofdistinction again (in the QEII) and Shamshir in the Fillies’ Mile.

“And of the others all over the world, let’s not forget Barathea in the (1994) Breeders’ Cup. He was a highlight of our association. It’s been fantastic.”

Cumani, who retired in 2018 after 43 years with a licence, gave his opinion on why Dettori’s career has enjoyed such a long life.

“He’s lasted so long because he hasn’t overdone it,” he said.

“And it’s like a horse – he’s sound, mentally and physically. He’s probably only chased the championship a handful of times and hasn’t worn himself out chasing championships. I think he’s had a charmed life and his genes were such that he has longevity.

“His talent, plus his will to win, has made him what he is – one of the greatest jockeys that ever lived.”

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